Chronic back pain is a global health problem affecting millions of people worldwide and carries significant economic and social morbidities. Intervertebral disc damage and degeneration is a major cause of back pain, characterised by histological and biochemical changes that have been well documented in animal models. Recently there has been intense interest in early intervention in disc degeneration using growth factors or stem cell transplantation, to replenish the diseased tissues. Bone Morphogenetic Proteins (BMPs) have been approved for clinical use in augmenting spinal fusions, and may represent candidate molecules for intervertebral disc regeneration. BMP13 has an important role in embryonic development and recent genetic evidence shows a role in the development of the human spine. This study explores the effect of BMP13 on a damaged intervertebral disc in an ovine model of discal degeneration. We found that, when injected at the time of injury, BMP13 reversed or arrested histological changes that occurred in the control discs such as loss of extracellular matrix proteins. In addition, BMP13 injected discs retained greater hydration after 4 months, and possessed more cells in the NP. Taken together, BMP13 may be a potent clinical therapeutic agent when used early in the degeneration cascade to promote healthy disc tissue.
Keywords: BMP13; annular injury; histological; in vivo; intervertebral disc degeneration; nucleus; ovine model; regeneration.