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Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2013 May;296(5):736-44. doi: 10.1002/ar.22683. Epub 2013 Mar 12.

The significance of calcified fibrocartilage on the cortical endplate of the translational sheep spine model.

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Bone and Joint Research Laboratory, DVA SLC Health Care System, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.


To gain an understanding of the vertebral cortical endplate and factors that may affect the ability to achieve skeletal attachment to intervertebral implants and fusion, this study aimed to characterize the hypermineralized tissue on the cortical endplate of the vertebral body on a commonly used animal model. Skeletally mature sheep were injected with tetracycline prior to euthanasia and the C2-C3, T5-T6, and L2-L3 spinal motion segments were excised and prepared. Vertebral tissues were imaged using backscatter electron (BSE) imaging, histology, and tetracycline labeling was used to assess bone remodeling within different tissue layers. It was determined that the hypermineralized tissue layer was calcified fibrocartilage (CFC). No tetracycline labels were identified in the CFC layer, in contrast to single and double labels that were present in the underlying bone, indicating the CFC present on the cortical endplate was not being actively remodeled. The average thickness of the CFC layer was 146.3 ± 70.53 µm in the cervical region, 98.2 ± 40.29 µm in the thoracic region, and 150.89 ± 69.25 µm in the lumbar region. This difference in thickness may be attributed to the regional biomechanical properties of the spine. Results from this investigation indicate the presence of a nonremodeling tissue on the cortical endplate of the vertebral body in sheep spines, which attaches the intervertebral disc to the vertebrae. This tissue, if not removed, would likely prevent successful bony attachment to an intervertebral device in spinal fusion studies and total disc replacement surgeries.

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