Intervertebral Disk Nutrients and Transport Mechanisms in Relation to Disk Degeneration: A Narrative Literature Review

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The purpose of this paper was to review the literature regarding the mechanisms leading to degeneration in intervertebral disks and to discuss contributing mechanical and biological factors.


The inclusion criteria for the literature review were research studies conducted in the last 3 decades with free full-text available in English. Review articles and articles pertaining to temporomandibular joints and joints of the body other than the intervertebral disk were excluded. The following databases were searched: PubMed, EBSCOhost, and Google Scholar through September 9, 2016.


A total of 57 articles were used in this review. Intervertebral disk cells require glucose for sustainability and oxygen to synthesize matrix components. Nutrients enter the disk via 2 vascular supply routes: capillary beds of end plates and the peripheral annulus fibrosus. Solute size, shape and charge, compression, and metabolic demand all influence the efficiency of nutrient transport, and alterations of any of these factors may have effects on nutrient transport and, potentially, disk degeneration.


Progressive nutrient transport disruptions may actively contribute in advancing the phases of degenerative disk disease. Such disruptions include dysfunctional loading and spinal position, lack of motion, high frequency loading, disk injury, aging, smoking, an acidic environment, and a lack of nutrient bioavailability.

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