Low back pain is a global health problem that is frequently caused by intervertebral disc degeneration (IVDD). Sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAGs) give the healthy nucleus pulposus (NP) a high fixed charge density (FCD), which creates an osmotic pressure that enables the disc to withstand high compressive forces. However, during IVDD sGAG reduction in the NP compromises biomechanical function. The aim of this study was to develop an ex vivo NP explant model with reduced sGAG content and subsequently investigate biomechanical restoration via injection of proteoglycan-containing notochordal cell-derived matrix (NCM). Bovine coccygeal NP explants were cultured in a bioreactor chamber and sGAG loss was induced by chondroitinase ABC (chABC) and cultured for up to 14 days. Afterwards, diurnal loading was studied, and explant restoration was investigated via injection of NCM. Explants were analyzed via histology, biochemistry, and biomechanical testing via stress relaxation tests and height measurements. ChABC injection induced dose-dependent sGAG reduction on Day 3, however, no dosing effects were detected after 7 and 14 days. Diurnal loading reduced sGAG loss after injection of chABC. NCM did not show an instant biomechanical (equilibrium pressure) or biochemical (FCD) restoration, as the injected fixed charges leached into the medium, however, NCM stimulated proliferation and increased Alcian blue staining intensity and matrix organization. NCM has biological repair potential and biomaterial/NCM combinations, which could better entrap NCM within the NP tissue, should be investigated in future studies. Concluding, chABC induced progressive, time-, dose- and loading-dependent sGAG reduction that led to a loss of biomechanical function.
Full Access Link: Journal of Orthopaedic Research