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Research article2012Peer reviewed

The Dog as an Animal Model for Intervertebral Disc Degeneration?

Bergknut, Niklas; Rutges, Joost P. H. J.; Kranenburg, Hendrik-Jan C.; Smolders, Lucas A.; Hagman, Ragnvi; Smidt, Hendrik-Jan; Lagerstedt, Anne-Sofi E.; Penning, Louis C.; Voorhout, George; Hazewinkel, Herman A. W.; Grinwis, Guy C. M.; Creemers, Laura B.; Meij, Bjoern P.; Dhert, Wouter J. A.


Study Design. Prospective observational and analytic study.Objective. To investigate whether spontaneous intervertebral disc degeneration (IVDD) occurring in both chondrodystrophic (CD) and nonchondrodystrophic dogs (NCD) can be used as a valid translational model for human IVDD research.Summary of Background Data. Different animal models are used in IVDD research, but in most of these models IVDD is induced manually or chemically rather than occurring spontaneously.Methods. A total of 184 intervertebral discs (IVDs) from 19 dogs of different breeds were used. The extent of IVDD was evaluated by macroscopic grading, histopathology, glycosaminoglycan content, and matrix metalloproteinase 2 activity. Canine data were compared with human IVD data acquired in this study or from the literature.Results. Gross pathology of IVDD in both dog types (CD and NCD) and humans showed many similarities, but the cartilaginous endplates were significantly thicker and the subchondral cortices significantly thinner in humans than in dogs. Notochordal cells were still present in the IVDs of adult NCD but were not seen in the CD breeds or in humans. Signs of degeneration were seen in young dogs of CD breeds (<1 year of age), whereas this was only seen in older dogs of NCD breeds (5-7 years of age). The relative glycosaminoglycan content and metalloproteinase 2 activity in canine IVDD were similar to those in humans: metalloproteinase 2 activity increased and glycosaminoglycan content decreased with increasing severity of IVDD.Conclusion. IVDD is similar in humans and dogs. Both CD and NCD breeds may therefore serve as models of spontaneous IVDD for human research. However, as with all animal models, it is important to recognize interspecies differences and, indeed, the intraspecies differences between CD and NCD breeds (early vs. late onset of IVDD, respectively) to develop an optimal canine model of human IVDD.


intervertebral disc degeneration; spine; animal model; dog

Published in

2012, Volume: 37, number: 5, pages: 351-358