Chronic low back pain is a significant public health problem in industrialized society. The intact spine carries the upper body and external loads, allows motion in a physiological range and protects the spinal cord. These different demands necessitate a high degree of complexity with various sources for disorders and pain. The Julius Wolff Institute conducts research in order to counter pain causes and to further optimize the pain treatment.
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Loading-unloading conditions expected in regular daily activities
Strategies for the biological repair of intervertebral discs derive from the premise that disc degeneration results from impaired cellular activity and, therefore, that these structures can be induced to regenerate by implanting active cells or providing factors that restore normal cellular activity. Although in vitro organ culture studies have had some success, most studies showed a significantly decrease in cell viability with culture duration. The decrease in cell viability may be associated with a hampered fluid inflow through the endplates in vitro.
In vivo during the day, intervertebral discs are loaded mainly in compression causing fluid and height losses that are subsequently fully recovered overnight due to fluid inflow under smaller compression. However, in vitro, fluid flow through the endplates, in particular fluid imbibition, is hampered possibly by blood clots formed post mortem. Despite earlier in vitro studies, it remains yet unclear if and how fluid flow conditions in vitro could properly emulate those in vivo.
The objective of this research field is to investigate the fluid flow dependent mechanisms in intervertebral discs under transient loading-unloading conditions expected in regular daily activities.