Intervertebral disc autografting in a bipedal animal model

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1997 Apr;(337):13-26. doi: 10.1097/00003086-199704000-00003.


Fusion of the spine while restoring stability of the spinal segment, fails to preserve spinal mobility. Long term complications of accelerated degeneration in the neighboring segments have been reported. The present study explores the possibility of intervertebral disc autografting in a bipedal animal model by isolating a lumbar disc together with the adjacent end plates and repositioning it with minimal internal fixation. Fourteen Rhesus monkeys were sacrificed at 2, 4, 6, and 12 months after surgery and the grafted discs were examined radiologically, biochemically, pathologically, and biomechanically. Healing of the bony end plate was seen between 2 to 4 months postoperatively. There was early loss of disc height at 2 and 4 months but there was a suggestion of some reconstitution up to 12 months. There was minimal evidence of gross degeneration at all stages. Gradual loss of water content was found in the annulus and the nucleus. The nucleus pulposus seemed to be able to reaccumulate proteoglycan after an initial drop in the first 4 months. There was significant increase in hydroxyproline content in the annulus fibrosus and the nucleus pulposus. Biomechanically, the grafted disc showed hypermobility in the first 4 months but gradually became stabilized with time. Results from this study suggested that a fresh intervertebral disc autograft could survive a period of ischemia. Although the physiology of the disc was deranged, it was able to preserve a certain degree of segmental mobility without sacrificing stability. Further studies are required to validate these results and the field of disc allografting should be explored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Body Water / metabolism
  • Hydroxyproline / analysis
  • Intervertebral Disc / chemistry
  • Intervertebral Disc / transplantation*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Proteoglycans / analysis
  • Radiography
  • Spine / physiology
  • Transplantation, Autologous / methods*


  • Proteoglycans
  • Hydroxyproline