eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) eCM Open Access Scientific Journal
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2021   Volume No 41 – pages 707-738

Title: The nucleus pulposus microenvironment in the intervertebral disc: the fountain of youth?

Authors: J Guerrero, S Häckel, AS Croft, S Hoppe, CE Albers, B Gantenbein

Address: Tissue Engineering for Orthopaedics and Mechanobiology (TOM), Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR) of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Bern, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

E-mail: julien.guerrero at

Abstract: The intervertebral disc (IVD) is a complex tissue, and its degeneration remains a problem for patients, without significant improvement in treatment strategies. This mostly age-related disease predominantly affects the nucleus pulposus (NP), the central region of the IVD. The NP tissue, and especially its microenvironment, exhibit changes that may be involved at the outset or affect the progression of IVD pathology. The NP tissue microenvironment is unique and can be defined by a variety of specific factors and components characteristic of its physiology and function. NP progenitor cell interactions with their surrounding microenvironment may be a key factor for the regulation of cellular metabolism, phenotype, and stemness. Recently, celltransplantation approaches have been investigated for the treatment of degenerative disc disease, highlighting the need to better understand if and how transplanted cells can give rise to healthy NP tissue. Hence, understanding all the components of the NP microenvironment seems to be critical to better gauge the success and outcomes of approaches for tissue engineering and future clinical applications. Knowledge about the components of the NP microenvironment, how NP progenitor cells interact with them, and how changes in their surroundings can alter their function is summarised. Recent discoveries in NP tissue engineering linked to the microenvironment are also reviewed, meaning how crosstalk within the microenvironment can be adjusted to promote NP regeneration. Associated clinical problems are also considered, connecting bench-to-bedside in the context of IVD degeneration.

Key Words: Tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, intervertebral disc, nucleus pulposus, cell therapy, microenvironment, clinical research.

Publication date: June 15th 2021

Article download: Pages 707-738 (PDF file)

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