1. Department of Orthopedic, Xijing Hospital, Fourth Military Medical University. Western Changle Road, Xi'an, 710032, Shannxi Provence, P. R. China.
2. Department of Radiology, Xijing Hospital, Fourth Military Medical University. Western Changle Road, Xi'an, 710032, Shannxi Provence, P. R. China.
#These authors contributed equally to this work.
The intervertebral disc (IVD) is the largest avascular organ of the body. It is composed of three parts: the nucleus pulposus (NP), the annulus fibrosus (AF) and the cartilaginous endplate (CEP). The central NP is surrounded by the AF and sandwiched by the two CEPs ever since its formation. This unique structure isolates the NP from the immune system of the host. Additionally, molecular factors expressed in IVD have been shown inhibitive effect on immune cells and cytokines infiltration. Therefore, the IVD has been identified as an immune privilege organ. The steady state of immune privilege is fundamental to the homeostasis of the IVD. The AF and the CEP, along with the immunosuppressive molecular factors are defined as the blood-NP barrier (BNB), which establishes a strong barrier to isolate the NP from the host immune system. When the BNB is damaged, the auto-immune response of the NP occurs with various downstream cascade reactions. This effect plays an important role in the whole process of IVD degeneration and related complications, such as herniation, sciatica and spontaneous herniated NP regression. Taken together, an enhanced understanding of the immune privilege of the IVD could provide new targets for the treatment of symptomatic IVD disease. However, the underlying mechanism above is still not fully clarified. Accordingly, the current study will extensively review and discuss studies regarding the immune privilege of the IVD.
Keywords: intervertebral disc, nucleus pulposus, annulus fibrosus, immune privilege, auto-immune response