Epic micro-CT

Novel medical imaging of the intervertebral disc: Quantitative MATLAB analysis via EPIC-microCT

By the age of 50, 80% of the population will show some signs of spinal disc degeneration. Disc degeneration causes back pain, instability, and can lead to serious complications such as disc rupture and spinal cord impingement. Tissue engineering techniques are being developed to heal degenerate discs, but are being stalled by the lack of a sensitive, fast, and cost-effective means of assessing disc regeneration in animal models. The goal of our project is to assess the efficacy of a novel medical imaging technique called EPIC-microCT as a better way to assess disc degradation and regeneration. EPIC-microCT is a CT scanning technique used in animals which uses a negatively charged contrast agent to measure the content of proteoglycan molecules (the key markers of disc degradation) in tissue. The technique has been proven in articular cartilage of the knee but has never been adapted for use in the spine. We will be inducing degradation in rabbit spinal discs, allowing degradation to progress to 2 different time points. We will then excise and scan the rabbit spinal discs using EPIC-microCT, and compare our results to histology, the current gold standard technique.

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