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Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are important cell sources in cartilage tissue development and homeostasis, and multiple strategies have been developed to improve MSCs chondrogenic differentiation with an aim of promoting cartilage regeneration. Here we report the effects of combining nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEFs) followed by treatment with ghrelin (a hormone that stimulates release of growth hormone) to regulate chondrogenesis of MSCs. nsPEFs and ghrelin were observed to separately enhance the chondrogenesis of MSCs, and the effects were significantly enhanced when the bioelectric stimulation and hormone were combined, which in turn improved osteochondral tissue repair of these cells within Sprague Dawley rats. We further found that nsPEFs can prime MSCs to be more receptive to subsequent stimuli of differentiation by upregulated Oct4/Nanog and activated JNK signaling pathway. Ghrelin initiated chondrogenic differentiation by activation of ERK1/2 signaling pathway, and RNA-seq results indicated 243 genes were regulated, and JAK-STAT signaling pathway was involved. Interestingly, the sequential order of applying these two stimuli is critical, with nsPEFs pretreatment followed by ghrelin enhanced chondrogenesis of MSCs in vitro and subsequent cartilage regeneration in vivo, but not vice versa. This synergistic prochondrogenic effects provide us new insights and strategies for future cell-based therapies. © 2021. Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


Kejia Li, Litong Fan, Jianjing Lin, Boon Chin Heng, Zhantao Deng, Qiujian Zheng, Jue Zhang, Yangzi Jiang, Zigang Ge. Nanosecond pulsed electric fields prime mesenchymal stem cells to peptide ghrelin and enhance chondrogenesis and osteochondral defect repair in vivo. Science China. Life sciences. 2022 May;65(5):927-939

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PMID: 34586575

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