Degenerative disc disease is a problem for a large portion of America. Sadly, one third of people aged 40-59 have some form of degenerative disc disease. This is a huge problem that needs to be addressed as the aging population in the United States continues to grow. Stem cell treatments have the potential to completely revolutionize how the medical community treats degenerative disc disease.
Degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs between the bones in your spine wear out. The spine will lose flexibility and the patient will likely begin to feel pain in their lower back. The issue is that anyone’s discs are going to be less effective over time. Spinal discs are more or less the shock absorbers between the vertebrae in the spine. Cars also have shock absorbers, just like the discs in your back. The discs in your spine, however, cannot be easily changed out like shock absorbers in a car. That is why so many patients have looked for other treatment options, such as stem cells.
An orthopedic surgeon has seen incredible results by using stem cells to treat patients with degenerative disc disease. About 85% of their patients saw an improvement in their condition after utilizing a stem cell treatment. There are several other research projects that have showcased stem cells are a potential treatment option for patients with degenerative disc disease.
A research team at the University of Pennsylvania has been investigating creating bioengineered discs that would be made out of a patient’s own stem cells. The discs would be easily accepted into the body as the body is already familiar with the cells that are being implanted. They have already successfully tested the stem cell discs in both rats and goats. Goats have a very similar cervical spine to humans.
The bioengineered disc was able to integrate seamlessly into the surrounding tissue compared to the artificial discs that are typically used. The researchers hope to test the bioengineered discs on human patients as soon as possible.
There was another study released in 2015 that looked into how mesenchymal stem cells in bone marrow would affect patients with degenerative disc disease. 26 patients with degenerative disc disease were treated with bone marrow injections into the areas where the discs were worn out.
21 out of 26 patients showed a substantial improvement in both pain and impairment. The patients that had the most dramatic improvements unsurprisingly had the highest stem cell counts in the problematic areas. This is great news as patients who did not see a substantial improvement can potentially go back and receive more stem cells to see a real recovery.
A deep analysis of several different studies where stem cells were used in treating back disc problems showed the state of the treatment. The overall results of the studies were not strong enough to identify that stem cells can be used as a real treatment for disc pain as of today.
There needs to be more conclusive studies of stem cell treatments on back discs for the treatment to be widely accepted in the medical community. Studies are currently underway all around the world to continue to evaluate the effectiveness of stem cell treatments on back discs.
Stem cells have the potential to completely change how the medical community treats problematic back discs. Researchers will continue to push the boundaries for stem cell treatments for degenerative disc disease. Patients could completely rid themselves of back pain and improve their quality of life.