Intravital microscopy of the intervertebral disc

Roman Dittmar, PhD

Within Europe, disc-related disorders are one of the most common and costly of clinical problems and yet diagnosis of the primary problem is probably poorer than for any other condition. Furthermore, disc changes evident on e.g. MRI images arise from cellular and biochemical events which occurred months to years earlier. Examples of such early events include decreased cell viability, increased proteolytic enzyme activity and a change in the composition and organization of the disc’s collagen network.

The general objective of the project is to develop novel diagnostic tools for assessing the condition of tissue and cells in the intervertebral disc. For this purpose, advanced microscopy techniques will be modified and tuned to allow quantitative measurements of known disc degeneration markers in situ. Specifically, cell viability will be non-invasively assessed by taking microscopy images of cellular auto-fluorescence. A peptide based fluorescent probe will be developed to measure the activity of metalloproteinase 13, a proteolytic enzyme up-regulated in disc degeneration. Also, the composition and integrity of the disc’s collagen network will be examined using novel microscopy modalities such as Second Harmonic Generation (SHG). Finally, these disc degeneration markers will be examined in vivo by adapting current (fluorescence) microscopy techniques to an endoscopic needle probe.

Link to dissertation

Dittmar, R. (2014). Novel strategies for monitoring intervertebral disc degeneration and regeneration. Eindhoven: Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. ((Co-)promot.: prof.dr. K. Ito & dr. C.C. van Donkelaar).

This projects is funded by Genodisc