The intervertebral disc (IVD) is the largest avascular structure in the human body. As such, important nutrients, such as glucose and oxygen, that are necessary for cellular survival and functioning, must be transported into the disc via diffusion. As a result, steep concentration gradients develop across the tissue, dependent upon both cellular demand (i.e., metabolism) and transport. Both mechanical loading and tissue degeneration may alter nutrient distributions in the IVD. This may, in turn, affect IVD cell activity and viability.

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