Intervertebral Disc Cells Produce Interleukins Found in Patients with Back Pain

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To examine the link between cytokines in intervertebral disc (IVD) tissues and axial back pain.


In vitro study with human IVD cells cultured from cadaveric donors and annulus fibrosus (AF) tissues from patients.


Cultured nucleus pulposus (NP) and AF cells were stimulated with interleukin (IL)-1β. IL-8 and IL-7 gene expression was analyzed using real-time polymerase chain reaction. IL-8 protein was quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. After IL-1β stimulation, IL-8 gene expression increased 26,541 fold in NP cells and 22,429 fold in AF cells, whereas protein released by the NP and AF cells increased 2,389- and 1,784-fold, respectively. IL-7 gene expression increased 3.3-fold in NP cells (P < 0.05).


Cytokine profiles in AF tissues collected from patients undergoing surgery for back pain (painful group) or scoliosis (controls) were compared by cytokine array. IL-8 protein in the AF tissues from patients with back pain was 1.81-fold of that in controls. IL-7 and IL-10 in AF tissues from the painful group were 6.87 and 4.63 times greater than the corresponding values in controls, respectively (P < 0.05).


Inflammatory mediators found in AF tissues from patients with discogenic back pain are likely produced by IVD cells and may play a key role in back pain.

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