4 Scopus citations


The intervertebral disc (IVD) aids in motion and acts to absorb energy transmitted to the spine. With little inherent regenerative capacity, degeneration of the intervertebral disc results in intervertebral disc disease, which contributes to low back pain and significant disability in many individuals. Increasing evidence suggests that IVD degeneration is a disease of the whole joint that is associated with significant inflammation. Moreover, studies show elevated macrophage accumulation within the IVD with increasing levels of disease severity; however, we still need to understand the roles, be they causative or consequential, of macrophages during the degenerative process. In this narrative review, we discuss hallmarks of IVD degeneration, showcase evidence of macrophage involvement during disc degeneration, and explore burgeoning research aimed at understanding the molecular pathways regulating macrophage functions during intervertebral disc degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1367
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors received partial financial support from Medtronic Inc. for IVD research during the drafting of this manuscript. The sponsors had no role in the design, execution, interpretation, or writing of the study.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Minnesota. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of funding agencies. Research in this vast field is rapidly expanding and cannot be entirely canvased in a single review. We apologize to authors whose work we inadvertently omitted or were not able to discuss.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • Tgfβ
  • hypoxia
  • inflammation
  • low back pain
  • macrophage polarization
  • spine

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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