Recent advances in disc cell biology.

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2003 Jan 15;28(2):186-93
Authors: Gruber HE, Hanley EN

STUDY DESIGN: There have been many advances over the past decade in understanding and experimentally modulating biologic aspects of intervertebral disc cell function. An overview of the current state of this biologic research is presented.

OBJECTIVES: To provide clinicians with a review of important recent advances in biologic studies of the disc and their implications for potential disc therapies.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Historically, anatomic, biochemical, radiologic, and biomechanical studies of the intervertebral disc formed the foundation on which our understanding of disc function was built. Magnetic resonance imaging techniques that allowed viewing of soft tissue components of the disc further advanced imaging capabilities.

METHODS: Recent publications are reviewed.

RESULTS: Experimental approaches over the past decade have enabled researchers to look more critically at disc cell function. This is important because disc cell function produces the extracellular matrix components of the disc, which, in turn, shape the disc’s subsequent physiologic and biomechanical functions. New approaches to the study of disc cell function, methods to manipulate disc cells, studies of intact discs and disc nutrition, vertebral endplate structure and function, tissue engineering, gene therapy, and the potential of stem cells in disc therapy are reviewed and discussed.

CONCLUSIONS: Many believe that disc degeneration has a cellular basis. New research is helping us better understand healthy, aging, and degenerating discs. Modern methods to manipulate and modulate disc cell function open exciting and challenging new therapeutic possibilities for future biologic treatments of disc degeneration.

PMID: 12544938 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]