2015 Undergraduate Awards

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The first manifestations of low back pain are thought to be the result of degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVD). There is surprisingly little known regarding the cellular composition and function of specific cell types within the nucleus pulposus (NP) of the IVD, particularly in models of degeneration. High-frequency, low-amplitude whole body vibration (WBV) is a form of mechanical stimuli that is currently used to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal disorders including osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and back pain. Recent data from the S-- Lab using a mouse model demonstrated that daily exposure to WBV results in degenerative changes to the intervertebral discs of the spine. Furthermore, the composition of the human NP changes with age; however, to date, no studies have been conducted to examine the origins of NP cells in older mice. To determine the fate of notochord cells in murine models of injury- and age-induced intervertebral disc degeneration, histological examination and molecular analysis were used to characterize the extent of degeneration and cell type. This study aims to better assess the changes in cellular composition of the IVD in response to injury and age, an important consideration in targeted therapeutic strategies to treat IVD degeneration and back pain.