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J Orthop Res. 2014 Sep;32(9):1198-207. doi: 10.1002/jor.22655. Epub 2014 May 29.

Morphological similarities after compression trauma of bovine and human intervertebral discs: Do disc cells have a chance of surviving?

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Department of Traumatology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Anichstr. 35, A-6020, Innsbruck, Austria.


To study the behavior of bovine disc cells and changes in disc matrix following in vitro compression tests; to compare the findings to investigations on human intervertebral discs (IVD) after burst fracture of the cervical spine. Healthy IVDs (n = 21) from three bovine tails were studied at 6 and 12 h post-mortem, with 16 IVDs subjected to impact loading and five as unloaded controls. IVDs (n = 8) from patients with burst fractures were compared to the bovine compression group. Specimens were studied macroscopically, histologically, and ultrastructurally for healthy cells, balloon cells, and disc cell death (DCD). Annulus ruptures were seen in both post-trauma groups, with radial ruptures being present histologically in all loaded bovine discs. Balloon cells were found in some human IVDs and were induced in vitro in bovine loaded discs within a distinct range of absorbed energy. There was a positive correlation between DCD and absorbed energy in all compartments of bovine discs. Both species showed similar patterns of DCD in the different compartments. This study was able to show similarities between both species in cell morphologies and matrix damage. The survival of the disc after substantial compression trauma thus seems to remain highly questionable.


annulus rupture; balloon cell; burst fracture; compression trauma; disc cell death

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