Stem Cells in Spine Surgery


Introduction: Spine surgeons are embracing advanced biologic technologies in an attempt to help millions of people achieve a better outcome in spine surgery. These new technologies may be complicated to understand, partly because the contribution of different types of cells has not been definitively identified. This paper describes the characteristics of the stem cells used in spine surgery, including their actions and possible complications. The description necessitates an overview of all studies to date on the use of stem cells in spine surgery, as well as other cells used in cellular therapy. Materials and Methods: The paper summarizes the results of major studies to date on the use of stem cells in spine surgery. Cells were harvested from the posterior superior iliac spine, vertebral bodies in surgery, fat tissue, or from the posterior spine of cadavers. Results: This paper reports on three studies involving 37 patients treated with stem cells for regenerative spine surgery, 14 studies involving 533 patients treated with stem cells in spinal fusion surgery, and one study in which stem cells were used for the treatment of anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Discussion: Indications, techniques, and calibration of results were different in each study. Results are available for cellular augmentation of demineralized bone sponges, OsteoSponge® (Bacterin, Belgrade, Montana) and concentrated bone marrow (Terumo BCT®, Lakewood, CO); cancellous allograft bone and BMA; mineralized collagen and BMA; Osteocel® Plus (OC+) (Nuvasive®, San Diego, California); b-Tricalcium phosphate (b-TCP) (SYNTHES® Dento, West Chester, Pennsylvania; a silicate-substituted calcium phosphate (Si-CaP) with bone marrow aspirate (BMA), and HEALOS® graft carrier (DePuy Synthes, West Chester, Pennsylvania) with bone marrow aspirate. Conclusion: Stem cell augmentation of spinal fusion surgery is equivalent to the gold standard for iliac crest bone graft in posterolateral fusion models. There is evidence of safety and feasibility in the injectable treatment of DDD with autologous BMC that indicates a favorable outcome of mesenchymal cell concentration on discogenic pain reduction. The use of adult stem cells is an innovation that promises fewer complications and improved function in patients who are demographically suitable for stem cell therapy.


Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, Chief of Spine Surgery, New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine, New York, New York, Attending Spine Surgeon, MidHudson Regional Hospital Of Westchester Medical Center Health Network, Poughkeepsie, New York

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