Intervertebral Disc Tissue Engineering

Motivation

The primary cause of lower back pain is intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration, with $90 billion spent annually on treatment. Current treatment options are limited and surgical intervention can cause further degradation of the adjacent discs and loss of range of motion. Because of these constraints, tissue engineered IVDs have become an increasing popular research target.

Current Research
1) develop a method to repair punctured discs and 2) develop a tissue engineered IVD as a possible biological replacement option.

Repair
High-density photocrosslinkable collagen gels have been developed in this lab as a means to “plug” a punctured disc and maintain disc height, a metric of disc health.

Replacement
Our lab has developed a composite tissue engineered IVD made from primary ovine nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosis (AF) cells suspended in alginate and collagen respectively. These TE-IVDs have been shown to be effective in an in vivo model, when implanted in the caudal spines of rats. We are now focusing on improving the properties of our discs in vitro using mechanical loading and mesenchymal stem cells.

Photograph of a tissue engineered intervertebral disc (left) and the native disc (right).

 

side-by-side-contrast-discsTissue engineered intervertebral disc (left) and native intervertebral disc (right).