eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) eCM Open Access Scientific Journal
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2023   Volume No 45 – pages 88-112

Title: Ex vivo intervertebral disc cultures: degeneration-induction methods and their implications for clinical translation

Authors:  E Salzer, TC Schmitz, VHM Mouser, A Vernengo, B Gantenbein, JU Jansen, C Neidlinger-Wilke, H-J Wilke, S Grad, CL Le Maitre, MA Tryfonidou, K Ito

Address: Orthopaedic Biomechanics, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, GEM‐Z 4.115, PO Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, the Netherlands

E-mail: k.ito at

Abstract: Because low back pain is frequently a result of intervertebral disc degeneration (IVDD), strategies to regenerate or repair the IVD are currently being investigated. Often, ex vivo disc cultures of non-human IVD organs or tissue explants are used that usually do not exhibit natural IVDD. Therefore, degenerative changes mimicking those reported in human IVDD need to be induced. To support researchers in selecting ex vivo disc cultures, a systematic search was performed for them and their potential use for studying human IVDD reviewed. Five degeneration induction categories (proinflammatory cytokines, injury/damage, degenerative loading, enzyme, and other) were identified in 129 studies across 7 species. Methods to induce degeneration are diverse and can induce mild to severe degenerative changes that progress over time, as described for human IVDD. The induced degenerative changes are model-specific and there is no “one-fits-all” IVDD induction method. Nevertheless, specific aspects of human IVDD can be well mimicked. Currently, spontaneously degenerated disc cultures from large animals capture human IVDD in most aspects. Combinatorial approaches of several induction methods using discs derived from large animals are promising to recapitulate pathological changes on several levels, such as cellular behaviour, extracellular matrix composition, and biomechanical function, and therefore better mimic human IVDD. Future disc culture setups might increase in complexity, and mimic human IVDD even better. As ex vivo disc cultures have the potential to reduce and even replace animal trials, especially during preclinical development, advancement of such models is highly relevant for more efficient and cost-effective clinical translation from bench-to-bedside.

Keywords: Disc culture, organ culture, explant culture, 3R, low back pain

Publication date: March 29th 2023

Article download: Pages 88-112 (PDF file)

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