Bone morphogenetic proteins and degenerative disk disease

Neurosurgery. 2012 Apr;70(4):996-1002; discussion 1002. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e318235d65f.


Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are involved not only in osteogenesis but also in chondrogenesis. They play an important role in the development and maintenance of the intervertebral disk (IVD). For this reason, an increasing amount of research has been performed to examine the relationship between BMPs and degenerative disk disease (DDD). Moreover, researchers are examining the safe use of BMPs as a potential treatment for diskogenic back pain. We performed a literature search using databases from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health to identify studies relating BMPs to DDD. According to in vitro and in vivo studies in different animal and human IVDs, BMP-2 and BMP-7 are upregulated with aging and with induced disk injury; this represents an anabolic response. Direct administration of BMP-2 to IVD cells results in increased production of components of the extracellular matrix. Upregulation of the BMP pathway via other agents, namely simvastatin and LIM mineralization protein-1, has resulted in similar outcomes. Adenoviruses loaded with BMPs, transfected either directly to IVD cells or via articular chondrocytic vectors, also resulted in reversal of the typical findings in DDD. We conclude that the use of BMPs to treat DDD has a promising future. Further studies are indicated to determine optimal delivery and efficacy in humans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Back Pain / etiology
  • Back Pain / metabolism
  • Back Pain / therapy*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / metabolism*
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / therapy*


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins