Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Mayo Clinic stem cell study shows promise for degenerative disc disease treatment

By Canadian Chiropractor staff   

Features Research

April 2, 2014 — Stem cell transplant was viable and effective in halting or reversing degenerative disc disease of the spine, a meta-analysis of animal studies showed, in a development expected to open up research in humans. Recent developments in stem cell research have made it possible to assess its effect on intervertebral disc (IVD) height, Mayo Clinic researchers reported at the 30th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, held in Phoenix last month.

"This landmark study draws the conclusion in pre-clinical animal
studies that stem cell therapy for disc degenerative disease might be a
potentially effective treatment for the very common condition that
affects people’s quality of life and productivity," said the senior
author, Wenchun Qu, MD, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
said not only did disc height increase, but stem cell transplant also
increased disc water content and improved appropriate gene expression.

exciting developments place us in a position to prepare for translation
of stem cell therapy for degenerative disc disease into clinical
trials," he said.
The increase in disc height was due to
restoration in the transplant group of the nucleus pulposus structure,
which refers to the jelly-like substance in the disc, and an increased
amount of water content, which is critical for the appropriate function
of the disc as a cushion for the spinal column, the researchers
The researchers performed a literature search of
MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO databases and also manually searched
reference lists for original, randomized, controlled trials on animals
that examined the association between IVD stem cell transplant and the
change of disc height.


Six studies met inclusion criteria.
Differences between the studies necessitated the use of random-effects
models to pool estimates of effect.
What they found was an over
23.6 per cent increase in the disc height index in the transplant group
compared with the placebo group (95 per cent confidence interval [CI],
19.7-23.5; p < 0.001). None of the six studies showed a decrease of
the disc height index in the transplant group. Increases in the disc
height index were statistically significant in all individual studies.
authors commented it is time to turn attention to the much-needed work
of determining the safety, feasibility, efficacy of IVD stem cell
transplant for humans.
"A hallmark of IVD degenerative disease
is its poor self-repair capacity secondary to the loss of IVD cells.
However, current available treatments fail to address the loss of cells
and cellular functions. In fact, many invasive treatments further damage
the disc, causing further degeneration in the diseased level or
adjacent levels," said the lead study author Jason Dauffenbach, DO. "The
goal of tissue engineering using stem cells is to restore the normal
function and motion of the diseased human spine."
For more information or questions about the Mayo Clinic study contact Qu at

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