Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration and associated low back pain (LBP) remains a major
burden to our society without significant improvements in treatment strategies or patient’s quality of
life. While the recent cell-transplantation studies for treatment of degenerative disc disease have
shown promising results, to better gauge the success and functional outcomes of these therapies, it is
crucial to understand if transplanted cells give rise to healthy nucleus pulposus (NP) tissue. NP cell
phenotype is unique and is defined by expression of a characteristic set of markers that reflect specialized
physiology and function. This review summarizes phenotypic markers that mirror the unique
physiology and function of NP cells and their progenitors and should be considered to when measuring
outcomes of cell-based therapies to treat disc degeneration.
Keywords: Annulus fibrosus, cell phenotype, hypoxia, intervertebral disc degeneration, intervertebral disc, nucleus pulposus,
stem cell therapy.
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