A sulphonate based hydrogel for nucleus pulposus repair

Jane Bramhill, Brian Tighe, Darren Campbell, Fiona Lydon, Jill Urban, Sally Roberts, Sarit Savin

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paper


Introduction: Lower back pain treatment and compensation costs >$80 billion overall in the US. 75% of back pain is due to disc degeneration in the lumbar region of the spine. Current treatment comprises of painkillers and bed rest or as a more radical solution – interbody cage fusion. In the early stages of disc degeneration the patient would benefit from addition of an injectable gel which polymerises in situ to support the degenerated nucleus pulposus. This involves a material which is an analogue of the natural tissue capable of restoring the biomechanical properties of the natural disc.
The nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral disc is an example of a natural proteoglycan consisting of a protein core with negatively charged keratin and chondroitin sulphate attached. As a result of the high fixed charge density of the proteoglycan, the matrix exerts an osmotic swelling pressure drawing sufficient water into support the spinal system.
Materials and Methods: NaAMPs (sodium 2- acrylamido 2-methyl propane sulphonic acid) and KSPA (potassium 3- sulphopropyl acrylate) were selected as monomers, the sulphonate group being used to mimic the natural sulphate group. These are used in dermal applications involving chronic wounds and have acceptably low cytotoxicity. Other hydrophilic carboxyl, amide and hydroxyl monomers such as 2-hydroxyethyl acrylamide, ß-carboxyethyl acrylate, acryloyl morpholine, and polyethylene glycol (meth)acrylate were used as diluents together with polyethyleneglycol di(meth)acrylate and hydrophilic multifunctional macromers as cross-linker. Redox was the chosen method of polymerisation and a range of initiators were investigated. Components were packaged in two solutions each containing a redox pair. A dual syringe method of injection into the cavity was used, the required time for polymerisation is circa 3-7 minutes. The final materials were tested using a Bohlin CVO Rheometer cycling from 0.5-25Hz at 37oC to measure the modulus. An in-house compression testing method was developed, using dialysis tubing to mimic the cavity, the gels were swelled in solutions of various osmolarity and compressed to ~ 20%. The pre-gel has also been injected into sheep spinal segments for mechanical compression testing to demonstrate the restoration of properties upon use of the gel.
Results and Discussion: Two systems resulted using similar monomer compositions but different initiation and crosslinking agents. NaAMPs and KSPA were used together at a ratio of ~1:1 in both systems with 0.25-2% crosslinking agent, diacrylate or methacrylate. The two initiation systems were ascorbic acid/oxone, and N,N,N,N - tetramethylethylenediamine (TEMED)/ potassium persulphate. These systems produced gelation within 3-7 and 3-5 minutes respectively. Storage of the two component systems was shown to be stable for approximately one month after mixing, in the dark, refrigerated at 1-4oC. The gelation was carried out at 37oC. Literature values for the natural disc give elastic constants ranging from 3-8kPa. The properties of the polymer can be tailored by altering crosslink density and monomer composition and are able to match those of the natural disc.
It is possible to incorporate a radio-opaque (histodenz) to enable x-ray luminescence during and after injection. At an inclusion level of 5% the gel is clearly visible and polymerisation and mechanical properties are not altered.
Conclusion: A two-pac injection system which will polymerise in situ, that can incorporate a radio-opaque, has been developed. This will reinforce the damaged nucleus pulposus in degenerative disc disease restoring adequate hydration and thus biomechanical properties. Tests on sheep spine segments are currently being carried out to demonstrate that a disc containing the gel has similar properties to an intact disc in comparison to one with a damaged nucleus.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2010
Event23rd European Conference on Biomaterials - Tampere, Finland
Duration: 11 Sept 201015 Sept 2010


Conference23rd European Conference on Biomaterials
Abbreviated titleESB2010


Dive into the research topics of 'A sulphonate based hydrogel for nucleus pulposus repair'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this