Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs: MRI results and histology in the rodent spine

Presented at the 2013 Spine Section Meeting 

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  • 1 Department of Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, New York;
  • 2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca;
  • 3 Department of Radiology, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York;
  • 4 Department of Radiology, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York; and
  • 5 Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
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Object

Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs (TE-IVDs) represent a new experimental approach for the treatment of degenerative disc disease. Compared with mechanical implants, TE-IVDs may better mimic the properties of native discs. The authors conducted a study to evaluate the outcome of TE-IVDs implanted into the rat-tail spine using radiological parameters and histology.

Methods

Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs consist of a distinct nucleus pulposus (NP) and anulus fibrosus (AF) that are engineered in vitro from sheep IVD chondrocytes. In 10 athymic rats a discectomy in the caudal spine was performed. The discs were replaced with TE-IVDs. Animals were kept alive for 8 months and were killed for histological evaluation. At 1, 5, and 8 months, MR images were obtained; T1-weighted sequences were used for disc height measurements, and T2-weighted sequences were used for morphological analysis. Quantitative T2 relaxation time analysis was used to assess the water content and T1ρ-relaxation time to assess the proteoglycan content of TE-IVDs.

Results

Disc height of the transplanted segments remained constant between 68% and 74% of healthy discs. Examination of TE-IVDs on MR images revealed morphology similar to that of native discs. T2-relaxation time did not differ between implanted and healthy discs, indicating similar water content of the NP tissue. The size of the NP decreased in TE-IVDs. Proteoglycan content in the NP was lower than it was in control discs. Ossification of the implanted segment was not observed. Histological examination revealed an AF consisting of an organized parallel-aligned fiber structure. The NP matrix appeared amorphous and contained cells that resembled chondrocytes.

Conclusions

The TE-IVDs remained viable over 8 months in vivo and maintained a structure similar to that of native discs. Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs should be explored further as an option for the potential treatment of degenerative disc disease.

Abbreviations used in this paper:AF = anulus fibrosus; DDD = degenerative disc disease; IVD = intervertebral disc; NEX = number of excitations; NP = nucleus pulposus; ROI = region of interest; RT = relaxation time; TE-IVD = tissue-engineered IVD.

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Contributor Notes

Current affiliation for Dr. Gebhard: BG Trauma Hospital, Tuebingen, Germany.

Address correspondence to: Roger Härtl, M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, 525 E. 68th St., Box 99, New York, NY 10065. email: roger@hartlmd.net.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online February 14, 2014; DOI: 10.3171/2013.12.SPINE13112.

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