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Intervertebral disc changes in an animal model representing altered mechanics in scoliosis.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, University of Vermont, Burlington, USA.


The intervertebral discs become wedged and narrowed in a scoliosis curve, and this may be due in part to altered biomechanical environment. To study this, external rings were attached by percutaneous pins transfixing adjacent vertebrae in 5-week-old Sprague-Dawley rats and four permutations of mechanical conditions (4 groups of animals) were compared: (A) 15 degrees Angulation, (B) Angulation with 0.1 MPa Compression, (C) 0.1 MPa Compression, and (D) Reduced mobility. These altered mechanical conditions were applied for 5 weeks. After 5 weeks, disc narrowing at the intervention levels was evident in micro-CT images. Average disc space loss as a percent of the initial values over the 5 weeks was 19%, 28%, 22% and 20% four groups listed above. Increased lateral bending stiffness relative to within-animal controls was also observed at all groups. The minimum stiffness was recorded at an angle close to the in vivo value, indicating that angulated discs had adapted to the imposed deformity. In the angulated and compressed discs there was a small difference in the amount of collagen crimping in the disc annuli between concave and convex sides. All experimental interventions produced substantial changes in the intervertebral discs of these growing animals. 'Reduced mobility' was present in all interventions, and the changes in the discs with reduced mobility alone were comparable with those in loaded and angulated discs. This suggests that imposed reduced mobility is the major source of disc changes, and may be a factor in disc degeneration in scoliosis. Further studies are in progress to characterize gene expression, matrix protein synthesis and composition in these discs.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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