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Concept: Intervertebral disc


There is currently no evidence that the intervertebral discs (IVDs) can respond positively to exercise in humans. Some authors have argued that IVD metabolism in humans is too slow to respond anabolically to exercise within the human lifespan. Here we show that chronic running exercise in men and women is associated with better IVD composition (hydration and proteoglycan content) and with IVD hypertrophy. Via quantitative assessment of physical activity we further find that accelerations at fast walking and slow running (2 m/s), but not high-impact tasks, lower intensity walking or static positions, correlated to positive IVD characteristics. These findings represent the first evidence in humans that exercise can be beneficial for the IVD and provide support for the notion that specific exercise protocols may improve IVD material properties in the spine. We anticipate that our findings will be a starting point to better define exercise protocols and physical activity profiles for IVD anabolism in humans.

Concepts: Metabolism, Exercise, Vertebral column, Physical quantities, Intervertebral disc, Stretching, Anabolism, Catabolism


Recent studies suggest there is a relationship between intervertebral disc herniation and vertebral shape. The nature of this relationship is unclear, however. Humans are more commonly afflicted with spinal disease than are non-human primates and one suggested explanation for this is the stress placed on the spine by bipedalism. With this in mind, we carried out a study of human, chimpanzee, and orangutan vertebrae to examine the links between vertebral shape, locomotion, and Schmorl’s nodes, which are bony indicators of vertical intervertebral disc herniation. We tested the hypothesis that vertical disc herniation preferentially affects individuals with vertebrae that are towards the ancestral end of the range of shape variation within Homo sapiens and therefore are less well adapted for bipedalism.

Concepts: Human, Spinal disc herniation, Vertebral column, Primate, Hominidae, Chimpanzee, Intervertebral disc, Human evolution


The circadian clocks are internal timing mechanisms that drive ∼24-hour rhythms in a tissue-specific manner. Many aspects of the physiology of the intervertebral disc (IVD) show clear diurnal rhythms. However, it is unknown whether IVD tissue contains functional circadian clocks and if so, how their dysregulation is implicated in IVD degeneration.

Concepts: Circadian rhythm, Intervertebral disc


We report five new specimens of xenorophid dolphins from North and South Carolina. Four of the specimens represent the xenorophid Albertocetus meffordorum, previously only known from the holotype skull. The other is a fragmentary petrosal from the upper Oligocene Belgrade Formation that we refer to Echovenator sp, indicating at least two xenorophids from that unit. Two of the Albertocetus meffordorum specimens are from the lower Oligocene Ashley Formation: 1) a partial skeleton with neurocranium, fragmentary mandible, ribs, vertebrae, and chevrons, and 2) an isolated braincase. The partial vertebral column indicates that Albertocetus retained the ancestral morphology and locomotory capabilities of basilosaurid archaeocetes, toothed mysticetes, and physeteroids, and caudal vertebrae that are as wide as tall suggest that the caudal peduncle, which occurs in all extant Cetacea, was either wide or lacking. CT data from the isolated braincase were used to generate a digital endocast of the cranial cavity. The estimated EQ of this specimen is relatively high for an Oligocene odontocete, and other aspects of the brain, such as its anteroposterior length and relative size of the temporal lobe, are intermediate in morphology between those of extant cetaceans and terrestrial artiodactyls. Ethmoturbinals are also preserved, and are similar in morphology and number to those described for the Miocene odontocete Squalodon. These fossils extend the temporal range of Albertocetus meffordorum into the early Oligocene, its geographic range into South Carolina, and expand our paleobiological understanding of the Xenorophidae.

Concepts: Temporal lobe, Skull, Vertebra, Intervertebral disc, Dolphin, Cetacea, Toothed whale, Archaeoceti


This paper presents a biomechanical analysis of the cervical C5-C6 functional spine unit before and after the anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. The aim of this work is to study the influence of the medical procedure and its instrumentation on range of motion and stress distribution. First, a three-dimensional finite element model of the lower cervical spine is obtained from computed tomography images using a pipeline of image processing, geometric modelling and mesh generation software. Then, a finite element study of parameters' influence on motion and a stress analysis at physiological and different post-operative scenarios were made for the basic movements of the cervical spine. It was confirmed that the results were very sensitive to intervertebral disc properties. The insertion of an anterior cervical plate influenced the stress distribution at the vertebral level as well as in the bone graft. Additionally, stress values in the graft decreased when it is used together with a cage.

Concepts: Medical imaging, Vertebral column, Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, Vertebra, Intervertebral disc, C, Cervical vertebrae


Finite element analysis is frequently used in several fields such as automotive simulations or biomechanics. It helps researchers and engineers to understand the mechanical behaviour of complex structures. The development of computer science brought the possibility to develop realistic computational models which can behave like physical ones, avoiding the difficulties and costs of experimental tests. In the framework of biomechanics, lots of FE models have been developed in the last few decades, enabling the investigation of the behaviour of the human body submitted to heavy damage such as in road traffic accidents or in ballistic impact. In both cases, the thorax/abdomen/pelvis system is frequently injured. The understanding of the behaviour of this complex system is of extreme importance. In order to explore the dynamic response of this system to impact loading, a finite element model of the human thorax/abdomen/pelvis system has, therefore, been developed including the main organs: heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen, the skeleton (with vertebrae, intervertebral discs, ribs), stomach, intestines, muscles, and skin. The FE model is based on a 3D reconstruction, which has been made from medical records of anonymous patients, who have had medical scans with no relation to the present study. Several scans have been analyzed, and specific attention has been paid to the anthropometry of the reconstructed model, which can be considered as a 50th percentile male model. The biometric parameters and laws have been implemented in the dynamic FE code (Radioss, Altair Hyperworks 11©) used for dynamic simulations. Then the 50th percentile model was validated against experimental data available in the literature, in terms of deflection, force, whose curve must be in experimental corridors. However, for other anthropometries (small male or large male models) question about the validation and results of numerical accident replications can be raised.

Concepts: Heart, Engineering, Finite element method, Tram accident, Computer graphics, Human body, Intervertebral disc, Accidents


Vertebral resection with spine shortening has been primarily reported for the treatment of demanding cases of nontraumatic disorders. Recently, this technique has been applied to the treatment of traumatic disorders. The current treatment of vertebral fracture-dislocation when there is partial or total telescoping of the involved vertebrae is a combined anterior-posterior approach with corpectomy, anterior support implant, and further posterior instrumentation. These procedures usually require 2 surgical teams, involve longer operating times and greater risk of surgical complications related to the anterior approach, and commonly entail longer postoperative care before discharge. The authors report on 2 patients with high thoracic fracture-dislocations with telescoping (T-2 and T-4) who were treated in the subacute phase with total spondylectomy (T-3 and T-5, respectively) and spine shortening by using only a posterior approach. Complete recovery of the sagittal balance was achieved with this technique and the postoperative periods were clinically uneventful. One patient presented with asymptomatic hemothorax that did not require drainage. In paraplegic patients with anterior thoracic dislocation fractures in which one vertebral body blocks the reduction of the other, total spondylectomy and spine shortening seem to be a reasonably safe and effective technique.

Concepts: Medical terms, Hospital, Lumbar vertebrae, Vertebral column, Vertebra, Intervertebral disc, Cervical vertebrae, Thoracic vertebrae


INTRODUCTION: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a fraction of plasma in which several growth factors are concentrated at high levels. The active soluble releasate isolated following platelet activation of PRP (PRP-releasate) has been demonstrated to stimulate the metabolism of IVD cells in vitro. The in vivo effect of PRP-releasate on degenerated IVD remains unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine the reparative effects of autologous PRP-releasate on degenerated intervertebral discs (IVDs). METHODS: To induce disc degeneration, New Zealand white rabbits (n=12) received anular puncture in two noncontiguous discs. Autologous PRP and PPP (platelet-poor plasma) were isolated from fresh blood using two centrifugation techniques. Four weeks after the initial puncture, releasate isolated from clotted PPP or PRP (PPP- or PRP-releasate), or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS; control) was injected into the punctured discs. Disc height, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) T2-mapping and histology were assessed. RESULTS: Anular puncture produced a consistent disc narrowing within four weeks. PRP-releasate induced a statistically significant restoration of disc height (PRP vs. PPP and PBS, p<0.05). In T2-quantification, the mean T2-values of the nucleus pulposus (NP) and anulus fibrosus (AF) of the discs were not significantly different among the three treatment groups. Histologically, the number of chondrocyte-like cells was significantly higher in the discs injected with PRP-releasate compared to that with PBS. CONCLUSIONS: The administration of active PRP-releasate induced a reparative effect on rabbit degenerated IVDs. The results of this study suggest that the use of autologous PRP-releasate is safe and can lead to a clinical application for IVD degeneration.

Concepts: Spinal disc herniation, Statistical significance, In vivo, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic resonance imaging, In vitro, Intervertebral disc, Rabbit


Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging in patients with persistent low back pain and sciatica effectively demonstrates spine anatomy and the relationship of nerve roots and intervertebral disks. Except in cases with nerve root compression, disk extrusion, or central stenosis, conventional anatomic MR images do not help distinguish effectively between painful and nonpainful degenerating disks. Hypoxia, inflammation, innervation, accelerated catabolism, and reduced water and glycosaminoglycan content characterize degenerated disks, the extent of which may distinguish nonpainful from painful ones. Applied to the spine, “functional” imaging techniques such as MR spectroscopy, T1ρ calculation, T2 relaxation time measurement, diffusion quantitative imaging, and radio nucleotide imaging provide measurements of some of these degenerative features. Novel minimally invasive therapies, with injected growth factors or genetic materials, target these processes in the disk and effectively reverse degeneration in controlled laboratory conditions. Functional imaging has applications in clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of these therapies and eventually to select patients for treatment. This report summarizes the biochemical processes in disk degeneration, the application of advanced disk imaging techniques, and the novel biologic therapies that presently have the most clinical promise.

Concepts: Time, Spinal disc herniation, Medical imaging, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic resonance imaging, Sciatica, Degenerative disc disease, Intervertebral disc


Although physical inactivity has been associated with numerous chronic musculoskeletal complaints, few studies have examined its associations with spinal structures. Moreover, previously reported associations between physical activity and low back pain are conflicting. This study examined the associations between physical inactivity and intervertebral disc height, paraspinal fat content and low back pain and disability.

Concepts: Spinal disc herniation, Low back pain, Back pain, Vertebral column, Intervertebral disc