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STUDY DESIGN: In vitro measurements of metabolic rates of isolated bovine nucleus pulposus cells at varying levels of oxygen, glucose, and pH. OBJECTIVES: To obtain quantitative information on the interactions between oxygen and glucose concentrations and pH, and the rates of oxygen and glucose consumption and lactic acid production, for disc nucleus cells. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Disc cells depend on diffusion from blood vessels at the disc margins for supply of nutrients. Loss of supply is thought to lead to disc degeneration, but how loss of supply affects nutrient concentrations in the disc is not known; nutrient concentrations within discs can normally only be calculated, because concentration measurements are invasive. However, realistic predictions cannot be made until there are data from measurements of metabolic rates at conditions found in the disc in vivo, i.e., at low levels of oxygen, glucose, and pH. METHODS: A metabolism chamber was designed to allow simultaneous recording of oxygen and glucose concentrations and of pH. These concentrations were measured electrochemically with custom-built glucose and oxygen sensors; lactic acid was measured biochemically. Bovine nucleus pulposus cells were isolated and inserted into the chamber, and simultaneous rates of oxygen and glucose consumption and of lactic acid production were measured over a range of glucose, oxygen, and pH levels. RESULTS: There were strong interactions between rates of metabolism and oxygen consumption and pH. At atmospheric oxygen levels, oxygen consumption rate at pH 6.2 was 32% of that at pH 7.4. The rate fell by 60% as oxygen concentration was decreased from 21 to 5% at pH 7.4, but only by 20% at pH 6.2. Similar interactions were seen for lactic acid production and glucose consumption rates; we found that glycolysis rates fell at low oxygen and glucose concentrations and low pH. Equations were derived that satisfactorily predict the effect of nutrient and metabolite concentrations on rates of lactic acid production rate and oxygen consumption. CONCLUSIONS: Disc cell metabolism in air and at pH 7.4 differs markedly from that found in the disc nucleus in vivo, where low levels of oxygen, glucose, and pH all coexist.


Journal article


Spine (Phila Pa 1976)

Publication Date





487 - 496


Animals, Cattle, Energy Metabolism, Glucose, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, In Vitro Techniques, Intervertebral Disc, Oxygen, Oxygen Consumption