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Soon, bioengineered spinal disc implants to make back aches history!

August 2, 2011 - Washington

A biologically based spinal implant could someday bring relief for countless sufferers of chronic back and neck pain, a new study suggests.

Lawrence Bonassar, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering, and Roger Hartl, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, have created bioengineered spinal discs that have been successfully implanted and tested in animals.

"We've engineered discs that have the same structural components and behave just like real discs," says Bonassar. "The hope is that this promising research will lead to engineered discs that we can implant into patients with damaged discs."

Remarkably, as opposed to artificial implants today that degrade over time, the scientists are seeing that the implants get better as they mature in the body, due to the growth of the cells.

"Our implants have maintained 70 to 80 percent of initial disc height. In fact, the mechanical properties get better with time," says Bonassar.

The implants would treat a broad category of illness called degenerative disc disease - a leading cause of disability worldwide.

From a biological perspective, the new discs could create a "huge advantage" over traditional implants because of how they integrate and mature with the vertebrae. This major surgery would become less invasive, safer and come with fewer long-term side effects, he says.

The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


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