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There is a need to develop mechanically active culture systems to better understand the role of mechanical stresses in intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration. Motion segment cultures that preserve the native IVD structure and adjacent vertebral bodies are preferred as model systems, but rapid ex vivo tissue degeneration limits their usefulness. The stability of rat and rabbit IVDs is of particular interest, as their small size makes them otherwise suitable for motion segment culture. The goal of this study was to determine if there are substantial differences in the susceptibility of rat and rabbit IVDs to culture-induced degeneration. Lumbar IVD motion segments were harvested from young adult male Sprague-Dawley rats and New Zealand White rabbits and cultured under standard conditions for 14 days. Biochemical assays and safranin-O histology showed that while glycosaminoglycan (GAG) loss was minimal in rabbit IVDs, it was progressive and severe in rat IVDs. In the rat IVD, GAG loss was concomitant with the loss of notochordal cells and the migration of endplate (EP) cells into the nucleus pulposus (NP). None of these changes were evident in the rabbit IVDs. Compared to rabbit IVDs, rat IVDs also showed increased matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3) and sharply decreased collagen type I and II collagen expression. Together these data indicated that the rabbit IVD was dramatically more stable than the rat IVD, which showed culture-related degenerative changes. Based on these findings we conclude that the rabbit motion segments are a superior model for mechanobiologic studies. Copyright © 2013 Orthopaedic Research Society.


Dongrim Seol, Hyeonghun Choe, Prem S Ramakrishnan, Keewoong Jang, Gail L Kurriger, Hongjun Zheng, Tae-Hong Lim, James A Martin. Organ culture stability of the intervertebral disc: rat versus rabbit. Journal of orthopaedic research : official publication of the Orthopaedic Research Society. 2013 Jun;31(6):838-46

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PMID: 23456659

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