eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) Not-for-profit Open Access
Created by Scientists, for Scientists
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2010   Volume No 19 – pages 273-283

Title: Minimizing cryopreservation-induced loss of disc cell activity for storage of whole intervertebral discs

Author: SCW Chan, SKL Lam, VYL Leung, D Chan, KDK Luk, KMC Cheung

Address:Department of Orthopaedics & Traumatology, Queen Mary Hospital, 102 Pokfulam Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR, China

E-mail: ken-cheung at

Key Words: Intervertebral disc, nucleus pulposus, annulus fibrosus, dimethylsulphoxide, propylene glycol, cryopreservation, metabolic activity, transplantation.

Publication date: June 9th 2010

Abstract: Severe intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration often requires disc excision and spinal fusion, which leads to loss of spinal segment mobility. Implantation of an allograft disc or tissue engineered disc construct emerges as an alternative to artificial disc replacement for preserving the motion of the degenerated level. Establishment of a bank of cadaveric or engineered cryopreserved discs enables size matching, and facilitates clinical management. However, there is a lack of understanding of the behaviour of disc cells during cryopreservation, as well as how to maximize their survival, such that disc graft properties can be preserved. Here, we report on the effect of alterations in cooling rates, cryoprotective agents (CPAs), and duration of pre-cryopreservation incubation in CPA on cellular activity in whole porcine lumbar discs. Our results indicated that cooling rates of -0.3°C/min and -0.5°C /min resulted in the least loss of metabolic activity in nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosus (AF) respectively, while metabolic activity is best maintained by using a combination of 10% dimethylsulphoxide (DMSO) and 10% propylene-glycol (PG) as CPA. By the use of such parameters, metabolic activity of the NP and the AF cells could be maintained at 70% and 45%, respectively, of that of the fresh tissue. Mechanical testing and histological evaluation showed no significant differences in mechanical properties or alterations in disc structure compared to fresh discs. Despite the limitations of the animal model, our findings provide a framework for establishing an applicable cryopreservation protocol for human disc allografts or tissue-engineered disc constructs.

Article download: Pages 273-283 (PDF file)
DOI: 10.22203/eCM.v019a26