Cell therapy for intervertebral disc repair: Advancing cell therapy from bench to clinics

L. M. Benneker, G. Andersson, J. C. Iatridis, D. Sakai, R. Härtl, K. Ito, Sibylle Grad

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59 Scopus citations


Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is a major cause of pain and disability; yet therapeutic options are limited and treatment often remains unsatisfactory. In recent years, research activities have intensified in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and pre-clinical studies have demonstrated encourageing results. Nonetheless, the translation of new biological therapies into clinical practice faces substantial barriers. During the symposium "Where Science meets Clinics", sponsored by the AO Foundation and held in Davos, Switzerland, from September 5-7, 2013, hurdles for translation were outlined, and ways to overcome them were discussed. With respect to cell therapy for IVD repair, it is obvious that regenerative treatment is indicated at early stages of disc degeneration, before structural changes have occurred. It is envisaged that in the near future, screening techniques and non-invasive imageing methods will be available to detect early degenerative changes. The promises of cell therapy include a sustained effect on matrix synthesis, inflammation control, and prevention of angio- and neuro-genesis. Discogenic pain, originating from "black discs" or annular injury, prevention of adjacent segment disease, and prevention of post-discectomy syndrome were identified as prospective indications for cell therapy. Before such therapy can safely and effectively be introduced into clinics, the identification of the patient population and proper standardisation of diagnostic parameters and outcome measurements are indispensable. Furthermore, open questions regarding the optimal cell type and delivery method need to be resolved in order to overcome the safety concerns implied with certain procedures. Finally, appropriate large animal models and well-designed clinical studies will be required, particularly addressing safety aspects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-11
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean Cells and Materials
Issue numberSUPPL
StatePublished - 6 May 2014


  • Barriers
  • Cell therapy
  • Clinical translation
  • Intervertebral disc
  • Patient selection
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Safety


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