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A study 1 in the Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology investigated the in vitro glucose consumption as well as gene expression by NP cells (over time) while under varying oxygen tensions. The study’s objective was to gain data for understanding disc pathophysiology and to determine the therapeutic potential of notochordal NP cells.

Why such a Focus?

Low back pain or LBP is a common condition affecting millions of people around the globe. According to research, LBP has a relationship with the degeneration of the spine’s intervertebral discs. Furthermore, an imbalance in the catabolic and anabolic activity by disc cells is known to result in such degeneration. Due to intervertebral discs being avascular (in their nature), there may be an oxygen deficiency in the central NP or nucleus pulposus. While the mechanisms require further understanding, the matrix regulation and energy metabolism of the disc cells can be affected by the resulting hypoxia. Monitoring such affects might help with better LBP treatments down the line (including treatment and preventive strategies for degenerative intervertebral discs).

The Study

The current study cultured notochordal procine NP cells in agarose discs. The cultures were at 21, 5, or 1% oxygen tension for 1, 5, or 10 days. An RT-PCR was used to analyze the expression of 10 key matric genes, as well as Brachyury (T), by the said NP cells. A two-point method was used to measure the consumption of glucose.

Spinal bone

What were the significant Results?

The study’s results revealed that glucose consumption rates (by NP cells) were significantly affected by oxygen tension and culture time. Furthermore, significant changes were seen in T expression based on the culture time and oxygen level. Take note, better maintenance of the notochordal phenotype may be indicated due to how the T expression was significantly higher in the 1% oxygen tension on day 10 (compared to the other two groups).

What does it mean?

The study shared that (when it comes to agarose disc culture) a vital role is played by oxygen tensions level in maintaining the proper expression levels of matrix regulation genes of notochordal NP cells. The study offered data regarding the role of nutritional environment to support healthy NP cell expression. Better treatment strategies for disc regeneration might be helped by using the quantitative information gathered by this study. The data can also prove helpful to understand disc pathophysiology.