Cornell researchers have created bio-engineered discs in rats |

Cornell researchers have created bio-engineered discs in rats


Researchers create bioengineered spinal implants (OrthoSuperSite)

Cornell University engineers have created a biologically based spinal implant that could potentially aid in the relief of back and neck pain, according to a university press release.

The research was published in a recent edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and focused on the implantation and testing of these engineered discs into animal subjects.

“We’ve engineered discs that have the same structural components and behave just like real discs,” study author Lawrence J. Bonassar, PhD, stated in a Cornell University release. “The hope is that this promising research will lead to engineered discs that we can implant into patients with damaged discs.”

The authors of the study constructed a living, tissue-engineered intervertebral disc out of the hydrogel alginate, surrounding it with a collagen and seeding it with cells capable of re-populating the structures with new tissue. This product was then implanted in the caudal spine of athymic rats for a span of up to 6 months.

The researchers found the tissue-engineered disc was capable of maintaining disc height, producing de novo extracellular matrix and integrating into the spine. The mechanical properties of this disc, the authors noted, were similar to those found in a natural intervertebral disc. Furthermore, the discs appear to improve in quality as they mature.

“Our implants have maintained 70% to 80% of initial disc height,” Bonassar stated in the release. “In fact, the mechanical properties get better with time.”

“These studies demonstrate the feasibility of engineering a functional spinal motion segment and represent a critical step in developing biological therapies for degenerative disc disease,” the authors wrote.


  • Bowles RD, Gebhard HH, Hartl R, Bonassar LJ. Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs produce new matrix, maintain disc height, and restore biomechanical function to the rodent spine. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2011. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1107094108

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