Forgoing animal experiments: a case study in intervertebral disc regenerative medicine | Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology


The intervertebral disc (IVD), a fibro-cartilaginous structure acting as a natural shock absorber, contains an outer network of collagen fibers (annulus fibrosus) surrounding a central gelatinous (nucleus pulposus). Low back pain, affecting over 80% of adults during their lifetime and resulting in considerable disability and socioeconomic consequences, has been associated with IVD degeneration. On one hand, preclinical animal models of the disease have been considered to reproduce IVD degeneration and better understand its pathophysiology. They have proven useful in evaluating the efficacy of new therapeutic strategies and overcoming safety issues and ethical considerations prior to human clinical trials. On the other hand, ethical guidelines and concerns for animal welfare and care have led to the implementation of the three Rs (Replace, Reduce, Refine) principles and alternatives to animal experimentation are needed. In this talk, we will first provide an overview of the clinically relevant animal models of IVD degeneration that can provide insights into the degenerative process and be used for preclinical translational studies. We will then look at IVD specific alternative translational approaches to the classic in vivo approach. The implementation of ex vivo models and the design of bioprinted constructs recapitulating the complex architecture of an IVD could become an essential tool for data collection leading towards clinical trials, both human and veterinary ones.

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Catherine LeVisage

Research Director & Deputy Director of the Regenerative Medicine and Skeleton lab

Catherine LeVisage is a Research Director and the Deputy Director of the Regenerative Medicine and Skeleton lab in Nantes, France ( She was trained as a Pharmacist, received her PhD in Paris then performed a post-doc in the Johns Hopkins University (USA). In 2007, she joined with a tenured position at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. In 2013, she was appointed as a Research Director and joined the Regenerative Medicine and Skeleton laboratory in Nantes. In the “Skeletal Physiopathology and Joint Regenerative Medicine” team headed by Prof J. Guicheux. As a group leader, her most recent works have focused on innovative hydrogels as i) carriers of cells or bioactive molecules in the context of IVD disease and osteoarthritis and ii) tools for stem cell-based organogenesis. She is an elected member of the TERMIS-EU Council, a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of “ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces”, and a reviewer for national and international funding agencies. She has co-authored 75 publications (h-index 33) and 11 patents, and has given 60 invited lectures/seminars at national and international conferences. Researcher ID: E-5460-2011