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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2012 May 4;421(2):361-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2012.04.018. Epub 2012 Apr 9.

Live free or die: stretch-induced apoptosis occurs when adaptive reorientation of annulus fibrosus cells is restricted.

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School of Engineering, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA.


High matrix strains in the intervertebral disc occur during physiological motions and are amplified around structural defects in the annulus fibrosus (AF). It remains unknown if large matrix strains in the human AF result in localized cell death. This study investigated strain amplitudes and substrate conditions where AF cells were vulnerable to stretch-induced apoptosis. Human degenerated AF cells were subjected to 1 Hz-cyclic tensile strains for 24h on uniformly collagen coated substrates and on substrates with 40 μm stripes of collagen that restricted cellular reorientation. AF cells were capable of responding to stretch (stress fibers and focal adhesions aligned perpendicular to the direction of stretch), but were vulnerable to stretch-induced apoptosis when cytoskeletal reorientation was restricted, as could occur in degenerated states due to fibrosis and crosslink accumulation and at areas where high strains occur (around structural defects, delaminations, and herniations).

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