Modeling the role of IGF-1 on extracellular matrix biosynthesis and cellularity in intervertebral disc

Francesco Travascio, Shady Elmasry, Shihab Asfour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a well-known anabolic agent for intervertebral disc (IVD), promoting both proteoglycan (PG) biosynthesis and cell proliferation. Accordingly, it is believed that IGF-1 may play a central role in IVD homeostasis. Furthermore, the exogenous administration of IGF-1 has been proposed as a possible therapeutic strategy for disc degeneration. The objectives of this study were to develop a new computational framework for describing the mechanisms regulating IGF-mediated homeostasis in IVD, and to apply this numerical tool for investigating the effectiveness of exogenous administration of IGF-1 for curing disc degeneration. A diffusive-reactive model was developed for describing competitive binding of IGF-1 to its binding proteins and cell surface receptors, with the latter reaction initiating the intracellular signaling mechanism leading to PG production and cell proliferation. Because PG production increases cell metabolic rate, and cell proliferation increases nutritional demand, nutrients transport and metabolism were also included into the model, and co-regulated, together with IGF-1, IVD cellularity. The sustainability and the effectiveness of IGF-mediated anabolism were investigated for conditions of pathologically insufficient nutrient supply, and for the case of exogenous administration of IGF-1 to degenerated IVD. Results showed that pathological nutrients deprivation, by decreasing cellularity, caused a reduction of PG biosynthesis. Also, exogenous administration of IGF-1 was only beneficial in well-nourished regions of IVD, and exacerbated cell mortality in malnourished regions. These findings remark the central role of nutrition in IVD health, and suggest that adequate nutritional supply is paramount for achieving a successful IGF-based therapy for disc degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2269-2276
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jul 18 2014


  • Cell viability
  • Disc degeneration
  • Growth factor therapy
  • Intervertebral disc homeostasis
  • Proteoglycan biosynthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering


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