Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed bio-engineered replacement spinal discs. Intervertebral discs are located between the bones of the spine to absorb shock, prevent the bones from painfully rubbing together and protect the nerves of the spinal cord. Degraded discs cause intense chronic pain, which is often debilitating and diminishes a person’s quality of life. The current standard of care involves replacing a damaged disc with a synthetic replacement, which does alleviate some pain, but does not compare to real cartilage. In an animal model, autologous (the patient’s own) mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were seeded into a biological scaffold where they differentiated into cartilage tissue. When the disc was fully-formed, it was surgically inserted back into the spine, and in a 20 week follow-up the disc maintained its structure and performed as normal.
Creative Medical Technology Holdings Inc. has announced plans to conduct clinical trials for the treatment of spinal disc degeneration. Lower back pain, caused by disc degeneration, is a leading cause of disability around the world. Building on medical studies that suggests that disc degeneration is caused by the deterioration [over time] of the system of blood vessels that provide nutrients and oxygen to the spine’s discs, the company is developing the protocols for a treatment that introduces autologous [the patient’s own] mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to the discs of the spinal cord to induce angiogenesis – i.e. the stimulation of new blood vessel production.