March 18, 2014
1 min read

Stem cell transplants may help treat degenerative disc disease

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Stem cell transplants was found to be viable and effective for halting or reversing degenerative disc disease in the spine, based on research conducted at the Mayo Clinic and presented at the American Academy of Pain Medicine Annual Meeting.

Recent developments in stem cell research made it possible to assess the effect of this therapy on intervertebral disc (IVD) height, investigators from the Mayo Clinic stated in a press release about their presentation.

“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,” Wenchun Qu, MD, PhD, one of the authors, stated in the release.

Qu noted in the press release that in the animal trials that he and his colleagues reviewed for their research, disc height increased and stem cell transplant led to increased disc water content. The introduction of stem cells also improved appropriate gene expression.

“These exciting developments place us in a position to prepare for translation of stem cell therapy for degenerative disc disease into clinical trials,” Qu stated.

The researchers performed a literature search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO databases for the study and manually searched reference lists for original, randomized, controlled trials on animals that examined the association between IVD stem cell transplant and changes in disc height. Six studies met their inclusion criteria, according to the release. Due to differences between the studies, Qu and colleagues used random-effects models to pool estimates of effect.

What they found was a great than 23% increase in the disc height index in the group that received the stem cell transplants compared with the placebo group (95% CI; 19.7-23.5; P < 0.001). None of the studies that Qu and colleagues included showed a decrease in the disc height index in the transplant group and the increases in the disc height index were statistically significant in all the individual studies, as noted in the release.

The researchers concluded in the release that the next step in this regard was to determine the safety, feasibility and efficacy of IVD stem cell transplant for humans.


Dauffenbach J. Poster #216. Presented at: American Academy of Pain Medicine Annual Meeting; March 5-9, 2014; Phoenix.