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Clinical experience in cell-based therapeutics: Disc chondrocyte transplantation:A treatment for degenerated or damaged intervertebral disc

Elsevier B.V.
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.bioeng.2006.07.002
  • Cell Transplantation
  • Autologous Disc Chondrocyte Transplantation
  • Discectomy
  • Oswestry
  • Disc Fluid Content
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine
  • Physics


Abstract Disc herniation treated by discectomy results in a significant loss of nucleus material and disc height. Biological restoration through the use of autologous disc chondrocyte transplantation offers a potential to achieve functional integration of disc metabolism and mechanics. Chondrocytes that have been removed from damaged cartilaginous tissues maintain a capacity to proliferate, produce and secrete matrix components and respond to physical stimuli such as dynamic loading. Nucleus regeneration using autologous cultured disc-derived chondrocytes (ADCT) has been demonstrated in a canine model and in clinical pilot studies. In 2002 a prospective, controlled, randomised, multi-center study, EuroDISC, comparing safety and efficacy of autologous disc chondrocyte transplant, chondrotransplant ® DISC, plus discectomy (ADCT), with discectomy alone was initiated. A dog model was used to investigate the hypothesis that autologous disc chondrocytes can be used to repair damaged intervertebral disc. Disc chondrocytes were harvested and expanded in culture under controlled and defined conditions, returned to the same animals from which they had been sampled (autologous transplantation) via percutaneous delivery. The animals were analyzed at specific times after transplantation by several methods to examine whether disc chondrocytes integrated with the surrounding tissue, produced the appropriate intervertebral disc extracellular matrix, and might provide a formative solution to disc repair. The clinical goals of the EuroDISC study, were to provide long-term pain relief, maintain disc height and prevent adjacent segment disease. Interim analysis was performed after 2 years; Oswestry (low back pain/disability), Quebec Back-Pain Disability Scale, as well as Prolo and VAS score were used for the evaluation. Disc height was assessed by MRI. In the context of degenerative changes in an injury model: ( Annunen et al., 1999) autologous disc chondrocytes were expended in culture and returned to the disc by a minimally invasive procedure after 12 weeks; ( Antoniou et al., 1996) disc chondrocytes remained viable after transplantation as shown by bromodeoxyuridine incorporation and maintained a capacity for proliferation after transplantation as depicted by histology; ( Bancroft and Stevens, 1982) transplanted disc chondrocytes produced an extracellular matrix that displayed composition similar to normal intervertebral disc tissue. Positive evidence of Proteoglycan content was supported by accepted histochemical staining techniques such as Safranin O-Fast Green; ( Beard et al., 1981) both Type II and Type I collagens were demonstrated in the regenerated intervertebral disc matrix by immunohistochemistry after chondrocyte transplantation; and ( Beard et al., 1981) when the disc heights were analyzed for variance according to treatment a statistically significant-correlation between transplanting cells and retention of disc height was achieved. A clinically significant reduction of low back pain in the ADCT-treated group was shown by all three pain score systems. The median total Oswestry score was 2 in the ADCT-treated group compared with 6 in the control group. Decreases in the disability index and VAS score in ADCT-treated patients correlated strongly with the reduction of low back pain. Decreases in disc height over time were only found in the control group, and of potential significance, intervertebral discs in adjacent segments appeared to retain hydration when compared to those adjacent to levels that had undergone discectomy without cell intervention. Autologous chondrocyte transplantation is technically feasible and biologically relevant to repairing disc damage and retarding disc degeneration.

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