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Back and neck pain are commonly associated with intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration. Structural augmentation of diseased nucleus pulposus (NP) tissue with biomaterials could restore degeneration-related IVD height loss and degraded biomechanical behaviors; however, effective NP replacement biomaterials are not commercially available. This study developed a novel, crosslinked, dual-polymer network (DPN) hydrogel comprised of methacrylated carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) and methylcellulose (MC), and used in vitro, in situ and in vivo testing to assess its efficacy as an injectable, in situ gelling, biocompatible material that matches native NP properties and restores IVD biomechanical behaviors. Thermogelling MC was required to enable consistent and timely gelation of CMC in situ within whole IVDs. The CMC-MC hydrogel was tuned to match compressive and swelling NP tissue properties. When injected into whole IVDs after discectomy injury, CMC-MC restored IVD height and compressive biomechanical behaviors, including range of motion and neutral zone stiffness, to intact levels. Subcutaneous implantation of the hydrogels in rats further demonstrated good biocompatibility of CMC-MC with a relatively thin fibrous capsule, similar to comparable biomaterials. In conclusion, CMC-MC is an injectable, tunable and biocompatible hydrogel with strong potential to be used as an NP replacement biomaterial since it can gel in situ, match NP properties, and restore IVD height and biomechanical function. Future investigations will evaluate herniation risk under severe loading conditions and assess long-term in vivo performance.


This article was originally published in Cells & Materials, available at DOI: 10.22203/eCM.v035a21.

This article is distributed in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution Licence (



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