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Paraspinal Muscle Health is Related to Fibrogenic, Adipogenic, and Myogenic Gene Expression in Patients with Lumbar Spine Pathology



Lumbar spine pathology is a common feature of lower back and/or lower extremity pain and is associated with observable degenerative changes in the lumbar paraspinal muscles that are associated with poor clinical prognosis. Despite the commonly observed phenotype of muscle degeneration in this patient population, its underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between groups of genes within the atrophic, myogenic, fibrogenic, adipogenic, and inflammatory pathways and multifidus muscle health in individuals undergoing surgery for lumbar spine pathology.


Multifidus muscle biopsies were obtained from patients (n = 59) undergoing surgery for lumbar spine pathology to analyze 42 genes from relevant adipogenic/metabolic, atrophic, fibrogenic, inflammatory, and myogenic gene pathways using quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Multifidus muscle morphology was examined preoperatively in these patients at the level and side of biopsy using T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging to determine whole muscle compartment area, lean muscle area, fat cross-sectional areas, and proportion of fat within the muscle compartment. These measures were used to investigate the relationships between gene expression patterns and muscle size and quality.


Relationships between gene expression and imaging revealed significant associations between decreased expression of adipogenic/metabolic gene (PPARD), increased expression of fibrogenic gene (COL3A1), and lower fat fraction on MRI (r = -0.346, p = 0.018, and r = 0.386, p = 0.047 respectively). Decreased expression of myogenic gene (mTOR) was related to greater lean muscle cross-sectional area (r = 0.388, p = 0.045).


Fibrogenic and adipogenic/metabolic genes were related to pre-operative muscle quality, and myogenic genes were related to pre-operative muscle size. These findings provide insight into molecular pathways associated with muscle health in the presence of lumbar spine pathology, establishing a foundation for future research that addresses how these changes impact outcomes in this patient population.

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