A meta-analysis of animal studies indicate that stem cell transplant is effective in arresting or reversing degenerative disc disease of the spine. The findings, presented last week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, may open the door for research in humans, and the eventual development of stem cell therapies that restore normal function and motion of the spine.
Research authors found that stem cell transplant acted both to increase disc height, and to increase disc water content. 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. Current treatments for intervertebral disc (IVD) degenerative disease fail to address the loss of cells and cellular functions, and many invasive treatments further damage the disc, causing additional degeneration in the diseased level or adjacent levels. Read a news story about the research here.