Study design: Establishment of a novel in vivo animal model of cervical spondylosis.
Objective: To investigate apoptotic, degenerative, and inflammatory changes occurring in the cervical intervertebral discs of rats.
Summary of background data: Cervical degeneration occurs as the result of imbalance of both static and dynamic spinal stabilizers. The disc degeneration that occurs is characterized by increased local inflammation and increased apoptosis of intervertebral disc cells.
Methods: By excising the paraspinal musculature and posterior cervical spinal ligaments of rats, both static and dynamic cervical stabilizers were disrupted. The resultant biomechanical imbalance resulted in biochemical and histologic changes, which were characterized by light microscopy, electron microscopy, immunostaining, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, polymerase chain reaction, and in situ hybridization.
Results: Histologic analysis showed characteristic degenerative changes of the intervertebral discs and vertebral endplates following surgery. Ultrastructural examination revealed apoptotic changes, which were verified by immunostaining. Instability also resulted in significant up-regulation of inflammatory factors, as shown by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, polymerase chain reaction, and in situ hybridization.
Conclusions: By creating static and dynamic posterior instability of the cervical spine, this novel model of cervical spondylosis results in rapid intervertebral disc degeneration characterized by increased apoptosis and local inflammation, such as that seen clinically.