Low back pain, related to degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVD), affects millions of people worldwide. Clinical studies using oral cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors have shown beneficial effects, although side-effects were reported. Therefore, intradiscal delivery of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be an alternative treatment strategy to halt degeneration and address IVD-related pain.
In the present study, the controlled release and biologic potency of celecoxib, a selective COX-2 inhibitor, from polyesteramide microspheres was investigated in vitro. In addition, safety and efficacy of injection of celecoxib-loaded microspheres were evaluated in vivo in a canine IVD degeneration model. In vitro, a sustained release of celecoxib was noted for over 28 days resulting in sustained inhibition of inflammation, as indicated by decreased prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production, and anti-catabolic effects in nucleus pulposus (NP) cells from degenerated IVDs on qPCR.
In vivo, there was no evidence of adverse effects on computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging or macroscopic evaluation of IVDs. Local and sustained delivery of celecoxib prevented progression of IVD degeneration corroborated by MRI, histology, and measurement of NP proteoglycan content. Furthermore, it seemed to harness inflammation as indicated by decreased PGE2 tissue levels and decreased neuronal growth factor immunopositivity, providing indirect evidence that local delivery of a COX-2 inhibitor could also address pain related to IVD degeneration.
In conclusion, intradiscal controlled release of celecoxib from polyesteramide microspheres prevented progression of IVD degeneration both in vitro and in vivo. Follow-up studies are warranted to determine the clinical efficacy of celecoxib-loaded PEAMs in chronic back pain.