Low back pain (LBP), caused by intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is a major contributor to global disability. In its healthy state, the IVD is a tough and well-hydrated tissue, able to act as a shock absorber along the spine. During degeneration, the IVD is hit by a cell-driven cascade of events, which lead progressively to extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation, chronic inflammation and pain. Current treatments are divided into palliative care (early stage degeneration) and surgical interventions (late stage degeneration), which are invasive and poorly efficient in the long-term. To overcome these limitations, alternative tissue engineering and regenerative medicine strategies, in which soft biomaterials are used as injectable carriers of cells and/or biomolecules to be delivered at the injury site and restore tissue function, are currently being explored. Self-assembling peptide hydrogels (SAPHs) represent a promising class of de novo synthetic biomaterials able to merge strengths of both natural and synthetic hydrogels for biomedical applications. Inherent features, such as shear-thinning behaviour, high biocompatibility, ECM biomimicry and tuneable physiochemical properties make these hydrogels appropriate and functional tools to tackle IVD degeneration. This review will describe the pathogenesis of IVD degeneration, list biomaterials requirements to attempt IVD repair and focus on current peptide hydrogel materials exploited to do so.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 28 Mar 2022|