Studies of human intervertebral disc cell function in a constrained in vitro tissue culture system

Christine Le Maitre, Christine Lyn Le Maitre, Judith Alison Hoyland, Anthony J. Freemont

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Study Design. This is a laboratory-based study examining a novel in vitro culture system for intervertebral disc tissue. Objectives. Address the hypothesis that "the novel culture system will preserve intervertebral disc tissue matrix and cell function and prevent cellular apoptosis for periods up to 21 days." Summary of Background Data. Studies of cell function in human intervertebral disc tissue are scarce. In vivo study of human intervertebral disc cells remains impracticable; in situ molecular biology in histologic sections lacks a dynamic dimension; and as for in vitro studies, cell culture often lacks physiologic relevance and explant cultures are subject to loss of tissue integrity and altered cell behavior. There is a biologic and therapeutic need for a satisfactory explant culture system for studying human intervertebral disc tissue in a controlled environment. Methods. Samples of human intervertebral disc tissue, obtained at surgery, were examined for a number of tissue and cell parameters immediately after excision (controls) and following culture of tissue samples either in a plastic ring or unconstrained in tissue culture medium for up to 3 weeks. Data were compared between cultured tissue and controls. Results. By comparison with control tissue, unconstrained explants swelled, tissue structure was disturbed, and there were profound changes in cell function. By contrast, tissue cultured in plastic rings maintained tissue structure, and after 3 weeks, the cellular parameters were the same as in controls. Conclusions. This is the first reported system to preserve cell function of human discal explants for long periods in tissue culture. It will be a useful tool for a wide range of investigations of intervertebral disc biology that have not hitherto been possible.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1187-1195
    Number of pages8
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2004


    • Explant culture
    • Human
    • Intervertebral disc


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