DOI: 10.1302/1358-992x.2024.2.114 ISSN: 1358-992X


M.F. Fiordalisi, I. Sousa, M.A. Barbosa, R.M. Gonçalves, J. Caldeira

Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is the most frequent cause of Low Back Pain (LBP) affecting nearly 80% of the population [1]. Current treatments fail to restore a functional IVD or to provide a long-term solution, so, there is an urgent need for novel therapeutic strategies. We have defined the IVD extracellular matrix (ECM) profile, showing that the pro-regenerative molecules Collagen type XII and XIV, are uniquely expressed during fetal stages [2]. Now we propose the first fetal injectable biomaterial to regenerate the IVD.

Fetal decellularized IVD scaffolds were recellularized with adult IVD cells and further implanted in vivo to evaluate their anti-angiogenic potential. Young decellularized IVD scaffolds were used as controls. Finally, a large scale protocol to produce a stable, biocompatible and easily injectable fetal IVD-based hydrogel was developed.

Fetal scaffolds were more effective at promoting Aggrecan and Collagen type II expression by IVD cells. In a Chorioallantoid membrane assay, only fetal matrices showed an anti-angiogenic potential. The same was observed in vivo when the angiogenesis was induced by human NP cells. In this context, human NP cells were more effective in GAG synthesis within a fetal microenvironment. Vaccum-assisted perfusion decellularized IVDs were obtained, with high DNA removal and sGAG retention. Hydrogel pre-solution passed through 21-30G needles. IVD cells seeded on the hydrogels initially decreased metabolic activity, but increased up to 70% at day 7, while LDH assay revealed cytotoxicity always below 30%.

This study will open new avenues for the establishment of a disruptive treatment for IVD degeneration with a positive impact on the angiogenesis associated with LBP, and on the improvement of patients’ quality of life.

Acknowledgements: Financial support was obtained from EUROSPINE, ON Foundation and FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia).

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