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Low back pain is often the direct result of degeneration of the intervertebral disc. A wide range of therapeutics including anti-catabolic, pro-anabolic factors and chemo-attractants that can stimulate resident cells and recruit endogenous progenitors are under consideration. The avascular nature and the dense matrix of this tissue make it challenging for systemically administered drugs to reach their target cells inside the nucleus pulposus (NP), the central gelatinous region of the intervertebral disc (IVD). Therefore, local intra-discal injection of therapeutic drugs directly into the NP is a clinically relevant delivery approach, however, suffers from rapid and wide diffusion outside the injection site resulting in short lived benefits while causing systemic toxicity. NP has a high negative fixed charge density due to the presence of negatively charged aggrecan glycosaminoglycans that provide swelling pressures, compressive stiffness and hydration to the tissue. This negative fixed charge density can also be used for enhancing intra-NP residence time of therapeutic drugs. Here we design positively charged Avidin grafted branched Dextran nanostructures that utilize long-range binding effects of electrostatic interactions to bind with the intra-NP negatively charged groups. The binding is strong enough to enable a month-long retention of cationic nanostructures within the NP following intra-discal administration, yet weak and reversible to allow movement to reach cells dispersed throughout the tissue. The branched carrier has multiple sites for drug conjugation and can reduce the need for multiple injections of high drug doses and minimize associated side-effects, paving the way for effective clinical translation of potential therapeutics for treatment of low back pain and disc degeneration.


Erica K Wagner, Armin Vedadghavami, Timothy D Jacobsen, Shakti A Goel, Nadeen O Chahine, Ambika G Bajpayee. Avidin grafted dextran nanostructure enables a month-long intra-discal retention. Scientific reports. 2020 Jul 21;10(1):12017

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PMID: 32694557

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