Image-based tissue engineering of a total intervertebral disc implant for restoration of function to the rat lumbar spine
Total Disc Replacement
Nonbiological total disc replacement is currently being used for the treatment of intervertebral disc (IVD) disease and injury, but these implants are prone to mechanical wear, tear and possible dislodgement. Recently, tissue-engineered total disc replacement (TE-TDR) has been investigated as a possible alternative to more fully replicate the native IVD properties. However, the performance of TE-TDRs has not been studied in the native disc space. In this study, MRI and microcomputed tomography imaging of the rat spine were used to design a collagen (annulus fibrosus)/alginate (nucleus pulposus) TE-TDR to a high degree of geometric accuracy, with less than 10% difference between TE-TDR and the native disc dimensions. Image-based TE-TDR implants were then inserted into the L4/L5 disc space of athymic rats (n = 5) and maintained for 16 weeks. The disc space was fully or partially maintained in three of five animals and proteoglycan and collagen histology staining was similar in composition to the native disc. In addition, good integration was observed between TE-TDR and the vertebral bodies, as well as remnant native IVD tissue. Overall, this study provides evidence that TE-TDR strategies may yield a clinically viable treatment for diseased or injured IVD.