Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment with 3-D Printing
Have you ever been overcome with anxiety from being at the mercy of a printer? Based on your adventures un-jamming your home printer, or watching tech support wrangle with the office printer, it’s scary to think these machines may be in future operating rooms during laser spine surgery for degenerative disc disease. According to 3D printing industry website, www.3ders.org, a bioengineering team from Cornell University is working to develop a new twist on adult stem cell spinal disc replacements. This field of research and development is still in its infancy and very promising.
Currently, the widely accepted surgical solution for degenerative disc disease often involves a laser spine surgery procedure to remove any bulging disc matter that has worn down due to the spine’s natural wear and tear over time. When a disc has deteriorated to the extent that removal is necessary, a spinal fusion procedure can help restore spinal stability. One drawback to this procedure however, is that spinal flexibility is reduced. Lumbar and cervical artificial disc replacement is a relatively new procedure developed as an alternative to spinal fusion. At this time, FDA approved replacements that contain medical grade plastics and metal. The Cornell research team is working on extending current stem cell research into developing engineered-tissue vertebral disc replacements.
According to the article on 3ders.org, with the aid of a specialized 3D printer, the patient’s stem cells are processed into a bio-ink type substance, and printed onto particular areas of the damaged disc. In time they repopulate into new disc tissue and integrate with the original disc. The lab is also working to use this bio-ink and the specialized 3D printer to create an entire intervertebral disc replacement, according to the Cornell University’s research team website. It is exciting to imagine the future possibilities for treating chronic pain from degenerative disc disease. Technological advances such as laser spine surgery and bio-engineered tissues have certainly extended the range of possible treatments for chronic back and neck pain. And to think…printers will now be helping!
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