Paola Bermudez-Lekerika (University of Bern)

Modulating intervertebral disc catabolism in in vitro and ex vivo systems: IL-4
and IL-10 metabolic role in intervertebral disc degeneration.

Abstract: Lower back pain (LBP) is a highly prevalent, chronic, and costly medical issue worldwide primarily
caused by Intervertebral Disc (IVD) degeneration. An IVD consists of an avascular proteoglycan
rich nucleus pulposus (NP) laterally constrained by the peripheral fibre-reinforced annulus fibrosus
(AF), situated between two cartilaginous end plates (CEP) responsible for nutrient and oxygen
transport. During degeneration, IVD ageing is accelerated, leading to pathological structural
changes including blood vessel and nerve ingrowth inside the IVD which allows cross-talk with the
immune system and promotes discogenic pain. In the last decades, several cytokines have been
investigated regarding their effect on the disc extracellular matrix metabolism. Specifically, an in
silico regulatory network model predicted IL-10 and IL-4 as key anabolic factors in the IVD.
However, the degeneration state of the IVD cells as well as environmental perturbation (i.e.
osmolarity) are crucial to determine the effect of these cytokines. Thus, in vitro and ex vivo
investigation of potential anabolic effect of IL-10 and IL-4 under various environmental
perturbations will elucidate novel disc matrix related metabolic events and illustrate the role of
osmolarity in IVD degeneration.
Biosketch: Paola Bermudez-Lekerika is a final year PhD candidate in the Tissue Engineering and
Mechanobiology lab at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Her research focuses on key metabolic
events involved in intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration and identification of potential anabolic
mediators for IVD regeneration. Distinguishing these phenotypes could elucidate fundamental
metabolic mechanisms in IVD degeneration and generate novel targets for therapeutics.
Paola graduated from the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Navarra, Spain) with a Bachelor’s
Degree in Chemistry (2017) and Biochemisty (2019) and then she completed her Master’s Degree
in Biomedical Research with a speciality in Regenerative Medicine and Advanced Therapies.