Reverse engineering and rapid prototyping in intervertebral disc tissue engineering

  • Sebastião Nicolau Dentinho van Uden (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration disease (IDD) is considered the main cause for low back pain (LBP), which has a world socioeconomic burden of 70 billion euros a year. Tissue Engineering (TE) is an exponentially growing area due to its potential of finding patient-specific treatments in terms of immunological compatibility by using the patient’s own cells. Though, it is possible to increase TE patient-specificity by combining other technologies such as Reverse Engineering (RE) and Rapid Prototyping (RP). In this sense, it is possible to prepare a biodegradable scaffold that is both immunological and structurally compatible. This strategy has the potential to significantly increase implant integration and decrease immunological rejection, allowing the scaffold to be progressively replaced with newly synthesised tissue to ultimately regenerate the IVD into a fully functional anatomical motion segment. Herein is reported a preliminary proof-of-concept for that strategy using rabbit IVD’s cells as well as morphology and structure. In this sense, the annulus fibrosus (AF) structure was replicated by RE and RP into a polycaprolactone scaffold, and the cells were encapsulated in methacrylated gellan gum (GG-MA) hydrogel as a nucleus pulposus (NP) substitute. The AF scaffold’s cytotoxicity, mechanical behaviour, porosity and superficial morphology were also analysed. It was observed a significant level of biocompatibility from the AF replica and a similar porosity in relation with the native IVD. Cell adhesion, proliferation and viability were assessed until 21 days of culture in GG-MA. The metabolic activity was higher in the NP cells than in the fibroblast cell line, both cultured in GG-MA. In the future, this novel strategy is envisaged to treat IDD, and remove LBP, by fully regenerating the intervertebral disc.
Date of Award27 Oct 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorRui L. Reis (Supervisor) & Joaquim Miguel Oliveira (Co-Supervisor)


  • Intervertebral disc
  • Tissue engineering
  • Reverse engineering
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Patient-specific


  • Mestrado em Engenharia Biomédica

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