The cartilage endplates (CEPs) on the superior and inferior surfaces of the intervertebral disc (IVD), are the primary nutrient transport pathways between the disc and the vertebral body. Passive diffusion is responsible for transporting small nutrient and metabolite molecules through the avascular CEPs. The baseline solute diffusivities in healthy CEPs have been previously studied, however alterations in CEP diffusion associated with IVD degeneration remain unclear. This study aimed to quantitatively compare the solute diffusion in healthy and degenerated human CEPs using a fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) approach. Seven healthy CEPs and twenty-two degenerated CEPs were collected from five fresh-frozen human cadaveric spines and seventeen patients undergoing spine fusion surgery, respectively. The sodium fluorescein diffusivities in CEP radial and vertical directions were measured using the FRAP method. The CEP calcification level was evaluated by measuring the average X-ray attenuation. No difference was found in solute diffusivities between radial and axial directions in healthy and degenerated CEPs. Compared to healthy CEPs, the average solute diffusivity was 44% lower in degenerated CEPs [Healthy: 29.07(23.96-33.62) µm2/s; Degenerated: 16.32(13.84-18.84) µm2/s, p<0.001]. The average solute diffusivity had an inverse relationship with the degree of CEP calcification as determined by the normalized X-ray attenuation values. This study suggests that solute diffusion through the disc and vertebral body interface is significantly hindered by CEP calcification, providing clues to help further understand the IVD degeneration mechanism.

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