Jan. 18, 2009 Each year, 40 to 60 percent of American adults suffer from chronic back pain. For patients diagnosed with severe degenerative disc disease, neurosurgeons must perform surgery called discectomy — removing the IVD — followed by a fusion of the vertebrate bones to stabilize the spine. Even after all that effort, the patient's back will likely not feel the same as before their injury.
But collaboration between physician-scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College and basic science researchers at Cornell University has led to the creation of bioengineered IVDs, in the laboratory, for transplantation into the spines of rats.
To create new spine discs, Dr. Roger Härtl and Dr. Lawrence Bonassar are using cells from IVD tissue of human patients who have had their spinal discs removed. Dr. Härtl is a noted neurological surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and the Leonard and Fleur Harlan Clinical Scholar and assistant professor of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Dr. Bonassar is an associate professor in the departments of biomedical engineering and mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Dr. Härtl harvests tissue from the removed discs and sends it to Dr. Bonassar. Cells are then isolated from this tissue and grown in an incubator that simulates the environment in the body. Once developed, they are placed on a bioengineered scaffold, enabling the assembly of the cells and scaffold into an IVD-shaped implant. The research team then surgically implants the discs inside a rat's spine in order to see how the tissue reacts to the mechanical and biological demands. So far, results are promising. The researchers hope to soon test the bioengineered discs in human subjects in a clinical trial, so that someday people can receive spare parts for their aging or injured backs.
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The above story is based on materials provided by New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College.
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