Previous studies have suggested that bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMDMSCs) genetically modified with baculoviral bone morphogenetic protein-2 (Bac-BMP-2) vectors could achieve successful fusion in a femur defect model or in a spinal fusion model. In this study, BMDMSCs expressing BMP-7 (Bac-BMP-7-BMDMSCs) were generated. We hypothesized that Bac-BMP-7-BMDMSCs could secrete more BMP-7 than untransduced BMDMSCs in vitro and achieve spinal posterolateral fusion in a rabbit model. Eighteen rabbits underwent posterolateral fusion at L4-5. Group I (n
= 6) was implanted with collagen-β-tricalcium phosphate (TCP)-hydroxyapatite (HA), Group II (n
= 6) was implanted with collagen-β-TCP-HA plus BMDMSCs, and Group III (n
= 6) was implanted with collagen-β-TCP-HA plus Bac-BMP-7-BMDMSCs. In vitro production of BMP-7 was quantified with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Spinal fusion was examined using computed tomography (CT), manual palpation, and histological analysis. ELISA demonstrated that Bac-BMP-7-BMDMSCs produced four-fold to five-fold more BMP-7 than did BMDMSCs. In the CT results, 6 fused segments were observed in Group I (50%, 6/12), 8 in Group II (67%, 8/12), and 12 in Group III (100%, 12/12). The fusion rate, determined by manual palpation, was 0% (0/6) in Group I, 0% (0/6) in Group II, and 83% (5/6) in Group III. Histology showed that Group III had more new bone and matured marrow formation. In conclusion, BMDMSCs genetically transduced with the Bac-BMP-7 vector could express more BMP-7 than untransduced BMDMSCs. These Bac-BMP-7-BMDMSCs on collagen-β-TCP-HA scaffolds were able to induce successful spinal fusion in rabbits.
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