Cookies

Like most websites The Translational Scientist uses cookies. In order to deliver a personalized, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. Learn more.
Disease Area Pain & critical care, Biomedical engineering

Putting Your Back into It

Used for the treatment of back pain caused by (advanced) degenerative disc disease, “spinal fusion” doesn’t sound like a walk in the park – for the surgeon or the patient. Though it can offer pain relief where other (less invasive) efforts have failed, it can result in reduced mobility and the need for successive surgery to treat increasingly stressed adjacent discs. As ever, better alternatives are sought – and the restoration or replacement of intervertebral discs is one clear direction; however, the pace of development in the field has been slow. Recent work by a collaboration of researchers across the USA demonstrates the feasibility of disc replacement with a bioengineered construct (1).

The group designed an “endplate-modified disc-like angle ply structure” – eDAPS, for short – to copy the native structure of intervertebral discs. The discs are “grown” out of mesenchymal stem cells that infiltrate a hydrogel and polymer scaffold matrix that sits between two polymer endplates. In a rat caudal disc replacement model, the bioengineered eDAPS showed the same compressive mechanistic properties as native disc tissue after 20 weeks in vivo. Implantation of larger eDAPS in a goat cervical disc replacement model showed similarly positive results after eight weeks. As one of the project leads, Professor Harvey Smith of the University of Pennsylvania explains, this is an important translational step: “What’s significant about the goat model is that the dimensions are analogous to the human cervical spine […] We’ve shown that we’re able to scale up our implant to the dimensions of a human.”

The researchers are continuing to assess integration of eDAPS and the long-term effects of implantation in the goat model, and will start considering human trials in earnest; Smith is already mulling tweaks to the process: “In humans, we would likely use harvested homologous stem cells to grow these implants with a patient’s own cells,” he says.

Will the crude “welding” of spinal fusion be replaced by a subtler biomimetic approach? Perhaps the goats (or rats) have the answer

 

Enjoy our FREE content!

Log in or register to read this article in full and gain access to The Translational Scientist’s entire content archive. It’s FREE and always will be!

Login if you already created an account

Or register now - it’s free and always will be!

You will benefit from:

  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
Register

Or Login as a Guest or via Social Media

  1. S Gullibrand, et al. “Long-term mechanical function and integration of an implanted tissue-engineered intervertebral disc,” Sci. Transl. Med. 10; 468 (2018) PMID: 30463917

About the Author

Jonathan James

As an assistant editor for The Translational Scientist, I can combine two of my passions; translational science research and science communication. Having thrown myself into various editing and other science communication gigs whilst at University I came to realise the importance of good quality content that delivers in an exciting and engaging way.

Related Solutions

Disease Area

See how droplets are guiding precision medicine

| Contributed by Bio Rad

Disease Area

Improving Absorption Measurements through Light Source Selection

| Contributed by Ocean Optics

Newsletter

Send me the latest from The Translational Scientist.

Sign up now

Related Articles

Disease Area

Hurt Blocker

| James Strachan

Disease Area

Resisting Arrest

| Roisin McGuigan

Disease Area

Pain and Vision Gain

| Roisin McGuigan

Most Popular

Register here

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:

  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts

Register