Tissue Engineering of the Intervertebral Disk

Abstract

The symptomatic degeneration of intervertebral disks is a common and multifactorial clinical problem that imposes a significant physical and economic burden on society. The degenerative process is characterized by aberrant changes in the cellular composition and biochemical components of the extracellular matrix of the disk. The pathogenesis of disk degeneration is complex and still being elucidated. In the realm of treatment of disk degeneration, spinal fusion is controversial because of the variability in its clinical outcomes and its alteration of the biomechanics of the spine. Tissue engineering has emerged as an attractive alternative to surgery for treating disk degeneration, as an attempt to restore the functional and the physiologic characteristics of the intervertebral disk. Numerous strategies have been devised in preclinical and animal models for restoring or replacing the nucleus pulposus, anulus fibrosus, and whole disk. This article reviews the advances that have been made and obstacles that remain in tissue engineering for treating degeneration of the intervertebral disk.

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