When a report came out in 2005 that researchers had found the stem cell origin of vertebrates in the human neck and shoulders, a new step toward vertebrae evolution had begun. That evolution is now moving forward with adult stem cell therapy.
Neurosurgery researchers, Kee Kim and Rudolph Schrot, of the University of California - Davis Health System, have developed a leading-edge stem cell therapy to relieve the debilitating pain that can occur following the removal of cervical discs.
The researchers used adult stem cells from bone marrow in order to promote growth of bone tissue for spinal fusion after surgery, used for numerous conditions like degenerative disc disease.
“For the past 50 years, bone marrow-derived stem cells have been used to rebuild patients' blood-forming systems. We know that subsets of stem cells from the marrow also can robustly build bone. Their use now to promote vertebral fusion is a new and extremely promising area of clinical study," said Jan Nolta, director of the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, as published in Science Daily.
The purpose of spinal fusion surgery is to remove the cervical disc that is causing the pain, used in situations like degenerative disc disease where the cartilage that cushions the vertebra has worn away. Bone on bone occurs or herniated discs. By eliminating the disc, painful friction between the vertebrae and nerve compression is eliminated.
Spinal fusion is a surgery that connects two or more vertebrae in the spine, used for three reasons: improve spine stability; reduce pain; or to correct a spine deformity. Treating the spine problem prevents motion or movement of the afflicted spine area.
According to Mayo Clinic, common conditions that require spinal fusion are degenerative disc disease, broken or fractured vertebrae, spondylolisthesis, spine deformities, herniated disc, chronic low back pain, spinal instability or weakness. Sixty percent of patients who have spinal fusion surgeries develop chronic pain or persistent discomfort, with adequate spinal fusions failing in approximately eight to 35 percent of patients.
"A lack of effective new bone growth after spine fusion surgery can be a significant problem, especially in surgeries involving multiple spinal segments," said Schrot, co-principal investigator for the study, also reported in Science Daily. "This new technology may help patients grow new bone, and it avoids harvesting a bone graft from the patient's own hip or using bone from a deceased donor."UC Davis Healthy System reports that several clinical trials are under way in the UC Davis Spine Center, with a total of 24 volunteers to become enrolled throughout the 10 investigational centers throughout the United States. Kim is also planning on launching a clinical trial that will study how safe it is to inject stem cells into disc tissue to repair degenerated discs.