Cyclic mechanical stretch stress increases the growth rate and collagen synthesis of nucleus pulposus cells in vitro

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1999 Feb 15;24(4):315-9. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199902150-00002.


Study design: A rabbit model designed to investigate the effects of applied cyclic tensile stress on the cell division rate and the collagen synthesis in the rabbit nucleus pulposus cells in vitro.

Objective: To evaluate the effects of mechanical stress on nucleus pulposus cells, thus adding to the understanding of the adaptation of the intervertebral disc to mechanical stress.

Summary of background data: Intervertebral disc cells in vivo are exposed to a multitude of physical forces during physical motion. Although it is known that in intervertebral disc disease, a common pathway of disc degeneration is mechanical stress on the nucleus pulposus or the anulus fibrosus or both, the underlying mechanism has been less well defined.

Methods: Nucleus pulposus cells were isolated from 4-week-old Japanese white rabbits. These cells were subjected to the mechanical cyclic stretch stress using a computerized, pressure-operated instrument that physically deformed the cells. The DNA synthesis rate, collagen synthesis rate, and cell cycle progression were measured.

Results: Cyclic tensile stretch increased the DNA synthesis rate in nucleus pulposus cells and in the population of cells in the S phase of the cell cycle during 1 to 2 days of subjugation to stress. Cyclic tensile stretch also increased collagenous protein synthesis in nucleus pulposus cells during 1 to 4 days of stress.

Conclusions: Mechanical stress on nucleus pulposus cells promotes the proliferation of cells and alters the properties of intervertebral disc cells. This study may reflect the adaptation of the intervertebral disc to increased motion and stress.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen / biosynthesis*
  • Collagen / genetics
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Intervertebral Disc / growth & development*
  • Intervertebral Disc / metabolism
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Rabbits
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Tensile Strength


  • Collagen
  • DNA