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Mol Med Rep. 2013 Jul;8(1):118-22. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2013.1450. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

Efficacy of intradiscal hepatocyte growth factor injection for the treatment of intervertebral disc degeneration.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedics, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200040, PR China.


A poor nutritional supply to the cells of the avascular intervertebral discs, caused by dehydration of the extracellular matrix, is a major cause of intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD). Since hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) has been shown to exert antifibrotic effects, we hypothesized that HGF treatment may be capable of retarding IDD. The present study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of HGF treatment in retarding IDD in a rat tail model of disc degeneration. The disc degeneration models were induced by needle puncture of the rat tail discs. Four weeks following needle puncture, a triblock poly(lactide-co-glycolide)-poly(ethyleneglycol)-poly(lactide-co-glycolide; PLGA-PEG-PLGA) polymer gel loaded with HGF or the gel alone was injected into rat tail discs. The efficacy of HGF in retarding IDD was assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), histological and immunohistochemical evaluation of the type I collagen, type II collagen and bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP‑2) expression levels. Following injection of the HGF-loaded gel into the nucleus pulposus (NP), a significant trend towards an increase in T2 signal intensity (P=0.028), type II collagen staining in the NP and the number of BMP-2-positive cells in the annulus fibrosus was observed. In addition, the results demonstrated a significant trend towards a decrease in the histological score (P=0.025) and type I collagen staining in the NP compared with segments treated with the gel alone, following the induction of disc degeneration by stab injury. Following treatment with HGF, a tendency for the level of disc height to be maintained was also observed (no statistical significance). By MRI, histological and immunohistochemical evaluation, the present study demonstrated that HGF-loaded PLGA-PEG-PLGA gel was able to retard disc degeneration when injected into the degenerative discs of rat tail models.

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