Spontaneous disc degeneration in the baboon model: Magnetic resonance imaging and histopathologic correlation

R. Craig Platenberg, Gene B. Hubbard, William J. Ehler, Clifford J. Hixson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Degenerative disc disease is a major source of disability in humans. The baboon model is an excellent natural disease model to study comparable human disease, because baboons are relatively large (adult males 20-26 kg, adult females 12-17 kg), long-lived (30-45 years), well defined, easy to use, and closely related to humans. Published investigations with plain radiographs of disc degeneration in baboons indicated vertebral anatomy and changes that were remarkably similar to those seen in humans, and it would be valuable to determine if magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and histopathologic evaluation would be useful methods for studying the model, as MRI allows multiplanar visualization of tissues without the use of intravenous contrast and it is superior for evaluating disc hydration, annulus tears, and herniations. The thoracolumbar junctions from 47 randomly selected baboons, ranging in age from 2 weeks to 34 years, were evaluated with MRI and histopathology. Excellent correlation with MRI was observed for changes in disc desiccation, height, and age (P < 0.001). The pathologic analysis demonstrated P values of < 0.001 when comparing histopathology with age and MRI results. All severely degenerated discs seen by MRI were in baboons 14 years of age or older.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-272
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of medical primatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal model
  • Bone
  • Disease
  • MRI
  • Nonhuman primate
  • Papio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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