Mechanobiology of the Human Intervertebral Disc: Systematic Review of the Literature and Future Perspectives

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Feb 1;24(3):2728. doi: 10.3390/ijms24032728.


Low back pain is an extremely common condition with severe consequences. Among its potential specific causes, degenerative disc disease (DDD) is one of the most frequently observed. Mechanobiology is an emerging science studying the interplay between mechanical stimuli and the biological behavior of cells and tissues. The aim of the presented study is to review, with a systematic approach, the existing literature regarding the mechanobiology of the human intervertebral disc (IVD), define the main pathways involved in DDD and identify novel potential therapeutic targets. The review was carried out in accordance with the Preferential Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Studies were included if they described biological responses of human IVD cells under mechanical stimulation or alterations of mechanical properties of the IVD determined by different gene expression. Fifteen studies were included and showed promising results confirming the mechanobiology of the human IVD as a key element in DDD. The technical advances of the last decade have allowed us to increase our understanding of this topic, enabling us to identify possible therapeutic targets to treat and to prevent DDD. Further research and technological innovations will shed light on the interactions between the mechanics and biology of the human IVD.

Keywords: degenerative disc disease; intervertebral disc; mechanobiology; mechanotransduction.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biophysics
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration* / genetics
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration* / metabolism
  • Intervertebral Disc* / metabolism
  • Low Back Pain*

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.