Introduction: Diabetes has long been implicated as a major risk factor for intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration, interfering with molecular signaling and matrix biochemistry, which ultimately aggravates the progression of the disease. Glucose content has been previously shown to influence structural and compositional changes in engineered discs in vitro, impeding fiber formation and mechanical stability. Methods: In this study, we investigated the impact of diabetic hyperglycemia on young IVDs by assessing biochemical composition, collagen fiber architecture, and mechanical behavior of discs harvested from 3- to 4-month-old db/db mouse caudal spines. Results: We found that discs taken from diabetic mice with elevated blood glucose levels demonstrated an increase in total glycosaminoglycan and collagen content, but comparable advanced glycation end products (AGE) levels to wild-type discs. Diabetic discs also contained ill-defined boundaries between the nucleus pulposus and annulus fibrosus, with the latter showing a disorganized and unaligned collagen fiber network at this same boundary. Conclusions: These compositional and structural changes had a detrimental effect on function, as the diabetic discs were twice as stiff as their wild-type counterparts and demonstrated a significant resistance to deformation. These results indicate that diabetes may predispose the young disc to DDD later in life by altering patterns of extracellular matrix deposition, fiber formation, and motion segment mechanics independently of AGE accumulation.
- annulus fibrosus
- degenerative disc disease