Tissue-engineering approach to regenerating the intervertebral disc

Tissue Eng. 2007 Aug;13(8):1927-54. doi: 10.1089/ten.2005.0608.


In today's world there is an ever increasing incidence of low back pain, which is generally attributed to degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVD) in those in their second or third decade of life. The most prevalent treatment modalities involve conservative methods (physical therapy and medications) or surgical fusion of the upper and lower vertebral bodies. In the last 10 years, there has been a surge of interest in applying tissue-engineering principles to treat spinal problems associated with the IVD. Tissue engineering provides many promising advantages to treating disc degeneration; it adopts a more biological and reparative approach, whereby the main goal is to restore the properties of the disc to its pre-degenerative state. This review outlines the physiology of the IVD and the etiology of disc degeneration. Much of the research carried out in the field of tissue engineering is based on three predominant constituents: cells, scaffolds, and signals. Thus, specific attention is given to these constituents and their potential use in repairing the IVD. Some of the significant challenges involved in IVD tissue engineering are also identified, and a brief discussion regarding possible future areas of research follows.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / physiology*
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*