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Effects of dynamic loading on solute transport through the human cartilage endplate


Nutrient and metabolite transport through the cartilage endplate (CEP) is important for maintaining proper disc nutrition, but the mechanisms of solute transport remain unclear. One unresolved issue is the role of dynamic loading. In comparison to static loading, dynamic loading is thought to enhance transport by increasing convection. However, the CEP has a high resistance to fluid flow, which could limit solute convection. Here we measure solute transport through site-matched cadaveric human lumbar CEP tissues under static vs. dynamic loading, and we determine how the degree of transport enhancement from dynamic loading depends on CEP porosity and solute size. We found that dynamic loading significantly increased small and large solute transport through the CEP: on average, dynamic loading increased the transport of sodium fluorescein (376 Da) by a factor of 1.85 ± 0.64 and the transport of a large dextran (4000 Da) by a factor of 4.97 ± 3.05. Importantly, CEP porosity (0.65 ± 0.07; range: 0.47-0.76) strongly influenced the degree of transport enhancement. Specifically, for both solutes, transport enhancement was greater for CEPs with low porosity than for CEPs with high porosity. This is because the CEPs with low porosity were susceptible to larger improvements in fluid flow under dynamic loading. The CEP becomes less porous and less hydrated with aging and as disc degeneration progresses. Together, these findings suggest that as those changes occur, dynamic loading has a greater effect on solute transport through the CEP compared to static loading, and thus may play a larger role in disc nutrition.

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