Bossnar Research Group
3D Printed Spinal Disc
Those scientists at Cornell University are at it again, not content with bioengineering ears that work exactly as a human ear does, they’re now hoping to 3D print spinal discs.
Dr. Lawrence J. Bonassar and his team, Bonassar Research Group, are pioneering spinal surgery using the same 3D printing techniques they used for those ears; stem cells filled with animal collagen.
Dr Bonassar told tech website DVICE that there are over 30 million Americans suffering from back pain due to degenerative spinal discs that 3D printing could help replace.
Currently, treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease is called Lumbar Spine Fusion and involves placing small morsels of bone either in the front of the spine and/or along the back of the spine so that the bone grows together and fuses that section of the spine. $90 million is spent annually on the current treatment options, which according to the research “can cause further degradation of the adjacent discs and loss of range of motion.”
The team has already successfully completed the new operation, which involves printing stem cells onto parts of a patient’s spinal discs, on over 100 lab rats. Bonassar says that this is some of the most advanced surgery ever performed on rats, rats that then go on to live a full life with full mobility.
The next step is to print the actual discs themselves, at the moment they are repairing the spinal discs which do go on to continue to grow tissues after they are implanted.
The photograph at the top of the article shows “a tissue-engineered intervertebral disc (right) and the native disc it is meant to replace (left). Unlike conventional medical implants, these engineered tissues integrate biologically with the surrounding vertebrae and their mechanical performance improves with time”
There seems to be a relentless march towards additive manufactured implants and we predict it won’t be too far off that this sort of operation becomes as standard as keyhole surgery is now.