Allogeneic Mesenchymal Progenitor Cells for Posterolateral Lumbar Spine Fusion in Sheep


Donna L. Wheeler, PhD, Joseph M. Lane, MD, Howard B. Seim III, DVM, Dipl. ACVS, Christian Puttlitz, PhD, Silviu Itescu, MD, A. Simon Turner, B.V.Sc, M.S, Dipl. ACVS



Osteoconductive porous ceramic bone graft materials supplemented with mesenchymal precursor cells (MPC) derived from autologous bone marrow aspirates have been shown to stimulate successful interbody and posterolateral spine fusion in preclinical models. Recent advances in immunomagnetic cell sorting have enabled purification and isolation of pleuripotent stem cells from marrow aspirates and have expanded stem cell technology to allogeneic cell sources. Allogeneic MPC technology combined with appropriate synthetic biomaterial carriers could provide both the osteogenic and osteoconductive components needed for successful posterolateral spine fusion without the need for autologous bone harvest or expensive recombinant protein technology.


To determine the safety and efficacy of a hydroxyapatite:tricalcium phosphate graft material supplemented with allogeneic mesenchymal precursor cells in posterolateral lumbar spine fusion using an ovine model.

Study Design

Skeletally mature ewes underwent single-level instrumented posterolateral lumbar spine fusion using either autograft (AG), hydroxyapatite:tricalcium phosphate carrier (CP), or CP supplemented with allogeneic mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPCs). Three doses of MPCs were evaluated: 25 X 106 cells (low dose, LD), 75 X 106 cells (mid dose, MD), and 225 X 106 cell (high dose, HD). Animals survived for either 4 or 9 months.


Plain radiographs were acquired and scored for bridging bone at regular intervals during healing to monitor fusion development. Hematology, coagulation and serum chemistry were monitored at regular interval throughout the study to monitor animal health. After necropsy, computed tomography, high resolution radiography, biomechanical testing, organ pathology, bone histopathology, and bone histomorphometry were conducted to monitor the safety and ascertain the efficacy of MPC treatment.


MPC treatment in this spine fusion model resulted in no observed adverse systemic or local tissue responses. Radiographically, fusion scores for MPC treated animals were uniformly higher compared to those treated with carrier alone (CP) after 3 months and continued the same trend throughout 9 month of healing. Quantitative computed tomography (qCT) confirmed better connectivity of the fusion for MPC treatment groups compared to CP. Biomechanical analyses were not able to differentiate between treatment groups. Histomorphometry results confirmed radiographic and qCT results; cell-supplemented treatment groups and autograft had equivalent amounts of bone within the fusion mass and less bony fusion tissue was found within the fusion mass in specimens from the CP treatment group. No conclusive effects of cell dose of fusion efficacy were noted.


Adult allogeneic mesenchymal precursor cells delivered via a hydroxyapatite:tricalcium phosphate carrier were both safe and efficacious in this ovine spine fusion model. Results from this preclinical study support that allogeneic mesenchymal precursor cells produced fusion efficacy similar to that achieved using iliac crest autograft, thereby providing a safe and viable option to achieve successful posterolateral spine fusion.

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