The intervertebral disc (IVD) is a unique orthopaedic tissue consisting of at least two cell types: fibroblast-like annulus fibrosus (AF) cells and chondrocyte-like nucleus pulposus (NP) cells. Culture of cells in 3D gel matrices (such as alginate or agarose), maintains the normal morphology and ECM molecule production of chondrocytes for extended periods of time and also allows the application of various forms of mechanical stimulation, such as hydrostatic or compressive loading. In vivo studies have shown IVD cells to be responsive to frequency, duration, and amplitude of mechanical load [1]. IVD literature on mechanobiology uses varying methodologies to apply dynamic loads (compression, hydrostatic forces), with different times of mechanical stimulation, differences in model systems (in vivo, tissue culture, cell culture), species, and ages, and an optimal loading protocol to stimulate extracellular matrix protein accumulation is unknown. The overall goal of this work is to evaluate the potential, and perhaps even feasibility, of mechanical stimulation for extracellular matrix (ECM) regeneration using intervertebral disc cells. Also of interest is whether cells from mature tissue are capable of serving as a potential cell source for future IVD regeneration [2,3].

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