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Stem cells 'promote bone tissue growth'

Wednesday 7th September 2011
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New research indicates that adult stem cells could be used to promote the growth of bone tissue after cervical disk removal.

In a study carried out at the University of California Davis, researchers used bone marrow-derived adult stem cells to promote the growth of bone tissue needed for spinal fusion after surgery.

A 53-year-old male with degenerative disc disease underwent an anterior cervical discectomy, during which a cervical disc or multiple discs are removed through an incision at the front of the neck.

The stem cell therapy was then used to promote fusion of the vertebrae across the space created by the disk removal.

According to authors, satisfactory spinal fusion fails to occur in eight to 35 per cent or more patients, with around 60 per cent of these experiencing pain as a result of fusion failure.

When the cervical disc is removed, pain is relieved as the friction between vertebrae and/or nerve compression is eliminated.

Spinal fusion is used after following a procedure to treat degenerative disk disease.

According to author Kee Kim, the research could eventually help both back and neck patients, while the knowledge garnered about stem cells can be used to treat individuals with back pain without surgery.

Jan Nolta, director of the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, said that the clinical trial was "exciting".

"For the past 50 years, bone marrow-derived stem cells have been used to rebuild patients' blood-forming systems. We know that subsets of stem cells from the marrow also can robustly build bone. Their use now to promote vertebral fusion is a new and extremely promising area of clinical study," she said.

The research was part of a study to evaluate the safety and preliminary efficacy of modified bone marrow-derived stem cells combined with the use of a delivery device as an alternative to promote and maintain spinal fusion.

It encompasses ten investigational centres around the US.

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