“This technology could revolutionize back pain treatment,” says James Hayami, the lead researcher and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering who specializes in biomedical engineering.
Currently the best thing that can be done in terms of surgical repairs is to alleviate pain by removing some of the bone that’s pinching the nerve, removing the herniated disc itself, or doing spinal fusions. There have been no regenerative treatment options that maintain the architecture of the spine or that have immediate results.
This technology is an injectable synthetic polymer mixture that takes form inside the body and increases the space between the vertebrae of the spine, alleviating any pain caused by pinched nerves. The biodegradable nature of this supporting structure means that it disappears over time as new tissue is regenerated.
While other similar supporting technologies are created outside the body and inserted via invasive surgery, this new injectable form is designed to be minimally invasive. In a single-step process, stem cells or cells taken from damaged tissue are added to the polymer mixture. The mixture is then injected into the body and the structure takes form. Tissue regeneration then takes place in the space the structure creates.
The cushioning centre of spinal discs and the cartilage that allows our joints to function smoothly are both non-regenerative. This new minimally invasive, regenerative technology means that people could be treated quickly and get back to their normal lives.
These findings will appear in an upcoming issue of Macromolecular Bioscience.