Porcine notochordal cell-derived matrix (NCM) has anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects on degenerated intervertebral discs. For its clinical use, safety must be assured. The porcine DNA is concerning because of (1) the transmission of endogenous retroviruses and (2) the inflammatory potential of cell-free DNA. Here, we present a simple, detergent-free protocol: tissue lyophilization lyses cells, and matrix integrity is preserved by limiting swelling during decellularization. DNA is digested quickly by a high nuclease concentration, followed by a short washout. Ninety-four percent of DNA was removed, and there was no loss of glycosaminoglycans or collagen. Forty-three percent of the total proteins remained in the decellularized NCM (dNCM). dNCM stimulated as much GAG production as NCM in nucleus pulposus cells but lost some anti-inflammatory effects. Reconstituted pulverized dNCM yielded a soft, shear-thinning biomaterial with a swelling ratio of 350% that also acted as an injectable cell carrier (cell viability >70%). dNCM can therefore be used as the basis for future biomaterials aimed at disc regeneration on a biological level and may restore joint mechanics by creating swelling pressure within the intervertebral disc.
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