Poroelastic behaviour of the degenerating human intervertebral disc: A ten-day study in a loaded disc culture system

K.S. Emanuel, P.P.A. Vergroesen, M. Peeters, R.M. Holewijn, I. Kingma, T.H. Smit

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29 Citations (Scopus)


The intervertebral disc (IVD) allows flexibility to the vertebral column, and transfers the predominant axial loads during daily activities. Its axial biomechanical behaviour is poroelastic, due to the water-binding and releasing capacity of the nucleus pulposus. Degeneration of the intervertebral disc presumably affects both the instantaneous elastic response to the load on the IVD and the subsequent interstitial flow of fluid. This study aims to quantify the poroelastic behaviour of the IVD and its change with degeneration, as defined by the magnetic resonance imaging-based Pfirrmann Score (PS). For a period of ten days, 36 human lumbar IVDs were loaded with a simulated physiological axial loading regime, while deformation was monitored. The IVDs responded to the loads with instantaneous elastic and slow poroelastic axial deformation. Several mechanical parameters changed throughout the first five days of the experiment, until the IVDs settled into a dynamic equilibrium. In this equilibrium, degeneration was significantly related to a decrease in disc height loss during the daytime high load phase (ρ = -0.49), and to a decrease in the rate of this deformation during the final half hour of each day (ρ = -0.53). These properties were related to the nucleus glycosaminoglycan/hydroxyproline (GAG/HYP) ratio, rather than GAG content alone, indicating that remodelling of the extracellular matrix reduces poroelastic properties of the IVD. This implies that the degenerated discs have a reduced capacity to bind water and/or a reduced resistance against fluid flow. The resulting loss in hydrostatic pressure may further change cell behaviour in the nucleus pulposus
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-41
JournalEuropean cells & materials
Early online date20 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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