At Cornell University, Dr. Lawrence J. Bonasser is working to develop a revolutionary new surgical procedure to repair spinal discs with the help of 3D printing.
The main culprit behind lower back pain is intervertebral degeneration. To date, the only way to treat the degeneration of spinal discs is through invasive surgery, which can further harm adjacent discs and also cause a loss of motion in a patient. However, if Dr. Bonasser has his way, soon surgeries will occur where custom printed stem-cells will be injected directly into a spinal disc to repair damaged spinal disk tissue.
Now, you might be saying “that’s just sci-fi speculation”, but according to Dr. Bonassar, over 100 rats in his lab have had successful spinal disc replacements. On his lab’s website, Dr. Bonasser states, “Unlike conventional medical implants, these engineered tissues integrate biologically with the surrounding vertebrae and their mechanical performance improves with time”.
Now that the Bonasser Lab has proven that they can effectively use stem cells to repair spinal disc tissue, researchers will move forward, developing techniques for using “mechanical loading” of “mesenchymal stem cells.”
If Dr. Bonasser’s research is successful, it may not be long before the surgery rooms of old look more like large scale 3D print shops, custom printing replacement limbs, joints and, of course, spinal discs.
Images Courtesy of Cornell University