Intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) is closely related to changes in the intervertebral disc (IVD) composition and the resulting viscoelastic properties. IDD is a severe condition because it decreases the disc's ability to resist mechanical loads. Our research aims to understand IDD at the cellular level, specifically the changes in the viscoelastic properties of the nucleus pulposus (NP), which are poorly understood. This study employed a system integrating nanoindentation with Raman spectrometry to correlate biomechanics with subtle changes in the biochemical makeup of the NP. The characterization was, in turn, correlated with the degenerative severity of IVD as assessed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of different patients with spinal stenosis, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and degenerative scoliosis. It is shown that there is an increase in the crosslinking ratio in collagen, a reduction in proteoglycan, and a build-up of minerals upon the rise in the severity level of the disc damage in the NP. Assessment of mechanical characteristics reveals that the increasing disc degeneration makes the NP lose its elasticity, becoming more viscous. This shows that the tissue undergoes abnormalities in weight-bearing ability, which contributes to spinal instability. The correlation of the individual discs shows that grades III and IV have similarities in the changes of Amide I and III toward the storage modulus. In contrast, grades IV and V correlate with mineralization toward the storage modulus. Reduction of proteoglycan has the highest impact on the changes of the storage modulus in all grades of IDD. Connecting compositional alterations to IVD micromechanics at various degrees of degeneration expands our understanding of tissue behavior and provides critical insight into clinical diagnostics, treatment, and tissue engineering.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ceramics and Composites
- Biomedical Engineering
- Metals and Alloys