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Worlds first spinal Disc transplant carried out:

firewater1981ffirewater1981 Posts: 84
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Worlds first spinal transplant carried out:
I am constantly searching for new treatment options in my effort to not get fusion surgery. I have stumbled upon some research by searching the Pubmed website which I do from time to time. Given the success of this procedure I am shocked that it is not being followed up on or being performed for us spineys who are suffering bad!

Basically scientists/researchers a couple years prior to 2008 removed good intervertebral discs from recently deceased people and replaced the damaged/bad intervertebral discs with these good discs. The study and its results were published in 2008. The outcome? Where they successful YEARS out after the procedure when the trial ended in 2008? See for yourself! Be sure to also check out the pictures in this scientific study!

Here is a link to the research on the Pub Med website:

My question is, if this was so successful why is it not being performed now?! Why, currently, is our only hope damaging fusion?!

I checked the clinical trials.gov site thoroughly and no trials are being done currently or since the positive results of this study. Nothing! Replacing the bad disc(s) with a good disc(s) makes so much sense. Why limit the mobility/movement and damage the rest of the spine with fusion? Why put artificial metal (and other materials - ADR) if you can put healthy discs in its place! Why re-invent the wheel? I realize this research was done in China and the US usually drags its feet (due to the FDA bottleneck and other reasons) in regards to experimental stuff usually, and we are falling behind other countries, but come on! Millions of people are suffering daily and desperately need an option other then fusion!

I talked with my neurosurgeon about upcoming products in clinical trials (clinicaltrial.gov) as well as stuff that medical science has learned after clinical trials (Pub Med). In fact before my appointment I printed out all the relevant clinical trials and Pub Med info that was relevant to my situation. It wasn’t a lot but it was something. I didn’t talk to him about this particular breakthrough. Most of all the research that has recently been done and the clinical trials that are going on now he was in the dark about. I am sure he is not alone. He is a smart man but I think with the huge amount of research/advancement that is being done in all fields of medicine it would be next to impossible for any medical doctor to keep up with it all. That is why it is so important to make sure they know about these trials and this research! This knowledge/research needs to get to the right people.

I will be sure to talk with my Neurosurgeon about spinal disc transplantation at my next appointment! Maybe you should do the same!

I am scheduled to see him in a few weeks. Right after I get an MRI of my neck to supplement the one I had done on my T and L spine.



  • For myself it is not about saving the disc that is important. More interesting to me is what to do with damaged nerves. I think most of us still in pain post surgery, it is not the fusion it self that is the problem, but the nerves that were damaged before surgery. Currently there is noway to tell if surgery is going to help the nerve issues till it is done and no relief is gotten. For myself I would have let you cut my arm off, if it would have stopped the pain. Somedays I still think like, or the frustration I am in when I can't do something because of the nerve damage and the weakness it causes. So while they stopped any further damage from occurring the issue of the disc is not important to me, it is the nerves. In all those studies they don't address nerve damage. The nerve damage didn't come from the surgery itself, but rather from the injury. Solving damaged nerves would help more than just spine patients.

    The other thing is the way this title reads on this thread leads one to believe they are transplanting spines. But I don't think they are going to spend much money on transplanting disc, but rather on how to heal them or recreate the fluid that is in them and seal them, as what they do with the many fluids they inject into other joints like knees. For example supartz only approved for knees at the time. But to me the real research need to be in fixing damaged nerves.
  • Tam Tam,
    I think the issue this particular research was intended for was to treat the spine and the damaged discs before they started to cause nerve damage. I belive that most people fall into this catagory. I am sorry it has gotten to the point of nerve damage with you. I have heard stories from others are in your same situation. Hopefully for your sake research will be able to repair damaged nerves. You are right in saying that they are also doing research to help treat and heal the discs that are already there. One of the promising things they are doing is with stem cells which so far have shown success. There are some clinical trials that should be starting up here real soon. Unfortunately these breakthroughs can not come soon enough. In regards to the title of my post I meant to put "worlds first spinal DISC transplant performed. I cant edit it. Do you know how I can change it?
  • Why edit...there is definite value in having this information.

    Possibly there would be a limited amount of money involved in the transplantation of a cadaver disc, in comparison to bone morphogenic protein, interspinous spacers, or cages.

    At 15 months postop, the status of my fusion is still up in the air. Having an intact disc would be one less problem with my long list of issues.

    Though I am interested in the continued work, I myself would not be some of the first people receiving a cadaver disc. It will take many years of successful work for me to be impressed. Same thing with the SI joint fusion. I must see appropriately managed studies with good long-term outcomes.

  • Chris,

    I'm on the same train as Tamtam. When my C6/7 went, that disk blew hard enough into the exit root, it damaged my nerve permanently. A new disk an hour later would have me no real difference for me either. So me? I'd rather see the money going into regenerating nerves that are/were damaged.

    I know they are doing studies now with fresh nerve or cord injury with stem cells, but I'm more excited to hear they might then try some studies on older injuries.

    I do agree with you that it will be some time before something like this is offered in the U.S. Thanks for posting the thread Chris. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Interesting. Glad to know studies were even performed. Thanks for sharing.

    I agree the US is behind due to FDA but the flip side is that when the procedure is available, I don't have to muddle through government bureaucracy to get on a wait list and wait 6 months to a year before a doctor will treat me. I laugh at these countries that do great work and then their people can't use it because they are put in a queue to see a doctor.

    Anyhow, it is interesting. I do wonder how it will be useful in the case of 'preventative' surgery. Like others have said, if your nerves take a hard hit, the disc is no longer the issue. Doing preventative back surgery has it's own risks. That being said, I have nerve damage but still hope it is not permanent. I'll have to keep an eye on this approach...it does make a lot of sense.
  • Hiya, this is interesting! It would be even better if they were to start doing this worldwide. Its a simular treatment to stem cell, isnt it? I am the same i had 2 discs removed and 1 shaved and nothing put in its place, and also have nerve damage! Its probably not available because of the cost, and they like to keep on doing trials, and wait to see patients recovery time, and to see how well they do and how long this lasts in reality.

    Angie xx
  • Hey Chris.

    Sorry I didn't respond last night. I seen your post to me about changing the name and did so, to add disc into the tittle of thread.
  • If it works out well. I guess the bigger issue with using someone else disc is rejection. Like most parts transplants. Seems to be a big issue. The other question to me would be how they reshape the cadaver disc to the exact size yours should be to fit into your spine.

    Doing this to prevent or control the amount of nerve damage makes more sense. Nerve damage is its own problem.

    I'm sure a lot of the medical device companies would be against this idea. I could see them putting up road blocks to help kill this. The artificial parts market, along with rods and screws hardware is big $$$ business. They tried to charge almost $5K per screw for my fusion. The Axial bolt listed at some ridiculous price of over $50K. For nothing more than a reverse henry screw. It's kind of a joke and still pretty crude.

    Back surgery with traditional fusion is archaic at best. An idea from the 40s that still continues trudging along. It makes modern medicine look like more like the stone ages.

    When I looked at the AxiaLIF procedure and looked at the product. They are building and testing a newer version that has a poly bushing in the middle. To allow movement and some loading. Seems like a simple concept that no one has gotten right yet.

    That doesn't even address the issues with the FDA.

  • Thanks for the change Tam Tam

    There is research going on to actually heal/repair the damaged nerves. I think this particular area is still a few years out though.

    in regards to transplanting healthy discs:

    Rejection could be a legitimate issue although there wasn’t issue with rejection in the study. The interesting thing about intervertebral discs is that they are generally "immune privileged" which means the immunes system is thought to not have contact with the center of the discs. Future research may prove otherwise.

    According to this study which concluded (or at least was published in 2008), the trial had been going on for 5 years prior. It wasn’t just started. In fact if you click on one of the pictures that particular case in the trial was started 6 years prior to 2008. All were still showing positive results. So 5-6 years out and the discs still appeared healthy and were undamaged like the previous discs. Id say that is encouraging. I think spinal fusion surgeons and ADR disc surgeons will tell you that you would be lucky to make it 10 years and you will probably need another surgery. Then another 10 years after that. Then another... you get the point. If this procedure is valid in my opinion having a natural disc is way more beneficial to the rest of your spine then hard bone (fusion) or other hard products with metals and such (ADR). Even if these transplanted natural discs lasted only as long as the time it takes in between fusions or in between replacing a worn out ADR I think it would be worth it! It potentially wouldn’t be damaging the rest of the spine like the other two options. And if I need surgery every 5-10 years whether its with a natural disc, ADR or fusion then I need a surgery every 5-10 years. It wouldn’t matter what I had done if this was the case. The biggest issue here is that I believe with a natural disc I would be preserving the rest of the spine. I preserve the rest of the spine to a degree with ADR and none with fusion. So getting surgery just to replace that damaged level every 5-10 years is better then getting surgery at this level every 5-10 years then when the next surgery comes up its at these two (or more) levels and when the next surgery comes up its at 3 (or more levels) and when the nex..... you get the point.
    With advancements in possible transplanting healthy discs to replace injured/damaged discs, growing fresh new discs outside the body and upcoming very promising trials and research using stem cell to regenerate the discs the future for us spineys looks very promising indeed. Keep your heads up!!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    different procedures that have been introduced to help deal with disc problems.

    Many times, these procedures come from outside the USA and have not always made their way into the USA FDA approvals.

    There are a lot of pros/cons to this. While we think that there is something that can really help us, but the USA has approved it, we ask why?

    Sometimes those procedures are very successful and eventually make it to the USA FDA.

    But there are also other procedures that have failed and caused additional problems.

    I remember back in the early 1980's, there was a treatment for herniated discs. It was the injection of papaya juice into the disc space. In fact, some pro Hockey players tried this. It proved to have very limited success and the long term outcome was worse than before.

    So, while we think there are so many things out there, I do appreciate that here in the USA we wait things out and review it in/out before making it available.

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Ron, "Funny" you should post about the surgery of papaya juice into the disc space.

    My hubby had that done when he was 20 yrs old - 28 yrs ago and it did him wonders for awhile - truthfully quite awhile. He was a coal miner and 6 weeks later he was back to work and remained there for 17 more yrs.

    Now for the past 3 yrs the same treatment has shown it's ugly face.

    He walks like a drunk - has lost so much balance. Has several other issues that came from this surgery.

    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • The FDA is not necessarily our saving grace. They most certainly weed out a lot of junk. Unfortunately the junk and pie-in-the-sky ideas take up their time. They are also inundated by our large pharma and biomed companies. The FDA is not staffed to work at the speed we would like them to work at it.

    On the stem cell ideas. It is certainly being used successfully in a lot of areas. Instead of BMP for my lumbar fusion. My surgeon uses the stem cell material. One of its big benefits is it doesn't cause some of the problems BMP does. It is very clean to use. It forms where it is needed and the rest is absorbed by the body. It doesn't trigger autoimmune issues. It is having very good success in fusions.

    There are several companies making artificial discs that are not metal. They are flexible and can be form fit to the individual. So far most of these materials have failed for one reason or another. Honestly it is truly beyond me why someone hasn't designed one that works and has at least 10 year lifespan in the patient.
  • Mark! Thanks for the link buddy!!!!!

    See!!!! Why haven't us spineys heard about this?!!

    Why does it take a couple of desperate fellows (well I am really speaking of me) to be going through the mounds of clinical data to present this info to you?!

    Why is damaging, painful, often unreliable fusion surgery still the gold standard?!?!

    I realize we know little about the spine. I also realize there is a lot of money to be made in fusions and all the follow ups with all the subsequent doctors and appointments but come on. I know the FDA generally means well but because they are so inundated/overwhelmed with all the products/services presented to them, they are a huge- HUGE bottle neck for life saving and SUFFERING saving treatments, but come on!!!!!!!!

    Why, with spine conditions the number one cause of disability in the work place and the fact that most (if not every person) in the whole world will have some degree of pain or degeneration in their lifetime does this not get more funding funding? Why is there a lack in general about the idea of research for this area getting funded. Why is there not a public light shown on how much we suffer? We do not have some random, uncommon disease. It is the number one cause of disability in the workforce! Millions and millions of people suffer from the same thing we do! The problem is only projected to get worse as the population ages!

    When is the last time you saw an ad on the TV for an organization or research to help us Spineys? You see ads for autism. You see them for Alzheimer's. You surely see them for cancer or heart disease. When was the last time you saw a "walk or run for a cure" for people with spinal problems? You see it for cancer. When was the last time you can go to a Walmart counter and donate to a fund to help scientists come up with a cure for herniated discs/degenerative disc disease? What's the last ad you saw in a magazine, on TV, on a billboard, on the internet about actually coming up with a cure for us? I'm not talking about people trying to sell us current products services. I'm talking about a research towards a real cure! Why is there so many people suffering from this, it being the year 2011, and the gold standard is something that was invented and being performed close to a century ago! Something that is widely known to be painful and has shown over time to be damaging to the rest of the spine!

    Fusion and some unproven (often discontinued) ADR devices ??!?!?! Is that all we really have in 2011?!?!!?
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    Some of what you say is true.

    But the bottom line for anyone who is suffering from any type of medical problem, the responsibility for doing the research is in the hands of the person who has the problem.

    Its almost impossible for every medical advancement for Spinal problems to be announced to the world. There are still many, many other health problems that are much more severe and disabling than spinal problems.

    We as spinal patients see things differently. But thats no different than patients suffering from other much more life threatening problems. Just take a look at COPD. Only in the last year has there been any real public awareness of this fatal

    Right now, COPD is the third major reasons for death in the USA, I havent seen where Spinal problems match up to that.

    Not to say that Spinal problems are not severe, its just a matter of taking things into the eyes of everyone, not just us.

    Like you, I would like to see much more done in terms of spinal problem advancements. I've been doing my share by talking to my local political representatives to see what can be done. Perhaps you could also channel your comments to a group just like that.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Exactly! It all comes down to the money. Wayyy too much money being made with the "gold standard" and spine problems fund soooo many phamaceutical companies. Hell, I'm on four different perscriptions myself. This tissue transplantation should be on a fast track through clinicals and made available when the parameters deem it safe to use. It won't though because of the almighty dollar. When was the last time the government did anything for the greater good and not to fleece the middle class? Whoops,...I digress. Not meaning to make this a political discussion, but I feel all of our pain. I am just a number caught in the spine pain web that funds the multi-multi-billion dollar industry of so called spinal care in this country. Franklt, it amazes me that we can find a way to get to the moon and land a rover on mars, but that darn spinal stuff,...they just can't find a way to solve most of them.

  • Ron,
    You say some of what I say is true, I ask you what of what I said is untrue?

    I never said "EVERY" medical advancement for spinal problems should be announced, just that it appears to me a general lack of announcement in research (as well as actual research) regarding this topic in general.

    You say there are "many, many other health problems that are much more severe and disabling than spinal problems". I beg to differ and so does the research. I would recommend going into Google and typing "leading cause of disability". You will see that arthritis and musculoskeletal problems is number one. Ahead of heart disease, cancer, mental health problems, diabetes etc. I never claimed that arthritis/spinal problems is #1 (or even among the top in fatalities). Although it would be interesting to see the studies on the suicide rate for people in chronic severe pain. A lot of people have chronic pain but what of those in severe chronic pain?

    You stated COPD as the third reason for death in the US and say that "I haven't seen where spinal problems match up to that". You are comparing apples to oranges. You are comparing high fatality rate diseases (heart disease, cancer, COPD) to a disease that is not directly related to fatalities (spinal disease). COPD and spinal disease/arthritis/musculoskeletal problems are however ALL directly related to disability. Which among that the research shows that COPD (or any other disease) is NOT as disabling as problems with arthritis, musculoskeletal (such as spinal problems). Unless you start grouping other disease classifications together they just don't stack up as far as disability goes.

    I believe I am "taking things in the eyes of everyone". I am glad there is research going on in all fields of disease research. I believe everyone deserves relief. I never said research into other diseases shouldn't be done, just that it appears to me that research into spinal problems seems lacking when compared to the other "heavy hitters" among disease. I stated that I was frustrated given the fact that spinal disease is so common among the population as a whole yet it appears (at least to me) to not be getting the same funding/attention.

    I do agree with you about "anyone who is suffering from any type of medical problem, the responsibility for doing the research is in the hands of the person who has the problem."

    I too would like to see more done in terms of spinal problem advancements. I myself am discouraged by the lack of advancement in this incredibly painful and debilitating field. I too have been talking to people about making this field more well known. I also have ideas I have been trying to share. I also have been studying and presenting new information to people who could use it. I believe I am doing what I can.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    You may think I am talking apples and oranges when making the comparison.

    I look at ANY medical problem as being disabling. Doesnt matter if its a spinal issue, a cancer or a terminal illness such as COPD.

    For years now, I have been going to a total Rehab center that handles Physical, Occupational, Speech and several other disorders.

    Those with spinal disorders require a good amount of work, but I have yet to see any more of a serious problem as someone suffering from COPD. Not only do many require 24x7 oxygen tanks, there motor skills have diminished , many far worse than someone who has had spinal surgery.

    My point was only to indicate that there is so much more than Spinal problems. One of the problems, I have seen is that so groups try to isolate themselves and campaign as their problems being the worse and that something needs to be done.

    I feel that it doesnt matter what the medical problem is, when you are disabled, you are disabled and help should try to come your way.

    Fire, I can respect that you disagree with some of the things I have said, just as I disagree with some of yours. But that is just part of what discussions are all about.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Ron,
    My intention is not being confrontational. If that is the way it is coming across then I apologize. My point is for good healthy discussion. If that entails healthy/respectable debate then so be it. After all as you so aptly put it "that is just part of what discussions are all about". If you look deeper into my posts it is not to cause argument but to challenge the status quo of how Spineys and our disease is dealt with, funded and researched.

    I too look at ANY problem that is disabling. Again, I am not saying that other diseases are not disabling and do not entail a whole lot of work. I was also not saying they do not deserve their research. What I am saying is that I believe that spine disease, in my opinion is not receiving the same "light" and attention as most of these other diseases (cancer, autism, heart disease etc.). I never claimed having spinal disease is better or worse than having any other disease(s) or that it takes more or less work. I was just pointing out that spinal disease is among the most common forms of disabling diseases and with that fact, again, in my opinion, spinal disease is not getting the funding/light/research as the other said diseases. It just shocks me.

    You said there "is so much more then spinal problems". I realize there is so much more then spinal problems. Again I never said there was not. I just said I believe that spinal problems are not getting the attention, funding, research it deserves as compared to other common diseases and I am shocked that people suffering so much from it do not know of the things being discovered today. I do take the topic of Spinal disease personally. After all I suffer from it. If I suffered from COPD or cancer or heart disease I would be on those forums and with those people talking about it, and it would hold a personal spot in my heart. My view and world is not so closed that I believe that the only disease and problem in the world worth fixing is spinal problems. I know there is other stuff out there. My heart goes out to you and those (which are many) suffering from various diseases. Hopefully there will be a day when all this suffering is gone. I'm just here to help in the research, encourage others to do the same and to pass along my findings to help out as many as possible. My true hope is that people read this and say yeah, why am I not asking "important people" about research being done. Why am I not asking these "important people" (my neurosurgeon, physical therapist, doctor ect) about research I read about transplanting healthy discs or using stem cells. Why am I just settling for fusion as the gold standard and settling for my doctors suggestion as fusion for the gold standard. If people start becoming more informed and start questioning this status quo of fusion then maybe research and relief for so many of us will come sooner. This inaction and just dealing with fusion as the standard both by us patients and specialist performing these procedures has (in my opinion) handicapped the research/advancement.

    "Inaction may be safe, but it builds nothing."
    Dave Freudenthal

    My point though is that spinal disease is not getting the.... well you get the point.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    Its good to have a deep discussion about things like this.

    I just want to make sure that I am listening to your point of view and you listen to mine.

    Its healthy to dialogue like this... No attacks, just personal views.. I like it
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • There is an FDA-approved artificial cervical disc, but try getting your insurance company to pay for it. Insurance companies consider it "investigational" so they won't cover it. They want to see several years worth of data that proves the device is as effective as fusion. I suppose that is the prudent thing to do, but for someone with a diseased disc that cannot be saved it is very frustrating not having a readily available and insurance-covered alternative to fusion. Yes, you can go to another country to have ADR done, but how many people have that kind of cash available?

    Also, a fusion is usually permanent. (I read about one case where a woman had her fusion "reversed" and replaced with an artificial disc.) If you have ADR and you end up having complications, then you might need to have a fusion. If you were XYZ Insurance wouldn't you rather pay for one permanent surgery (fusion) for Mr. Smith's C5/C6 and reduce your risk of having to pay for another surgery for the same level? An adjacent disc might go bad, but probably not for several years. By that time Mr. Smith might no longer have insurance with your company.
  • I only get a blank screen...

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • CM said:
    An adjacent disc might go bad, but probably not for several years. By that time Mr. Smith might no longer have insurance with your company.
    EXACTLY! They know, either way, you'll likely not be 100% again so why not theoretically push off any future expenses onto another company. Bean counters,...that's all they are. I'd take $ out of my retirement to have ADR before having a fusion because what is retirment worth if you are disabled. You'll need SS in that case...

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