Biologic Therapies for Aging Discs Somerville MA

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Brian J Awbrey MD
(617) 726-3808
151 Merrimac St
Boston, MA
Specialties
Orthopedics

Data Provided By:
Thomas Francis Burke
(617) 491-6766
300 Mount Auburn St
Cambridge, MA
Specialty
Orthopedic Surgery

Data Provided By:
John Kenneth Schuler, MD
1493 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA
Specialties
Orthopedics
Gender
Male
Education
Medical School: Univ Of Cincinnati Coll Of Med, Cincinnati Oh 45267
Graduation Year: 1975

Data Provided By:
James Francis Connor
(617) 864-1924
300 Mount Auburn St
Cambridge, MA
Specialty
Hand Surgery

Data Provided By:
William Lipman
(617) 591-4600
1493 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA
Specialty
Orthopedic Surgery

Data Provided By:
Lawrence Ira Karlin, MD
(617) 355-6021
300 Longwood Ave
Boston, MA
Business
Children's Hospital Boston Orthopaedic Surger
Specialties
Orthopedics

Data Provided By:
Elliott L Thrasher, MD
(617) 491-6766
300 Mount Auburn St Ste 505
Cambridge, MA
Specialties
Orthopedics
Gender
Male
Education
Medical School: Wv Univ Sch Of Med, Morgantown Wv 26506
Graduation Year: 1966

Data Provided By:
James Francis Connor Jr, MD
(617) 864-1924
300 Mount Auburn St Ste 510
Cambridge, MA
Specialties
Orthopedics, Hand Surgery
Gender
Male
Education
Medical School: Tufts Univ Sch Of Med, Boston Ma 02111
Graduation Year: 1987

Data Provided By:
James G Manson, MD
(617) 491-4122
Cambridge, MA
Specialties
Orthopedics
Gender
Male
Education
Graduation Year: 2007

Data Provided By:
Mercedes D Von Deck, MD
(617) 665-1566
1493 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA
Specialties
Orthopedics
Gender
Female
Education
Medical School: Harvard Med Sch, Boston Ma 02115
Graduation Year: 1992

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Biologic Therapies for Aging Discs

The lines and wrinkles on our faces aren't the only signs of the inevitable aging process. Progressive degenerative changes have also been documented in the spine. One of the areas of great interest is the intervertebral disc . New biologic therapies for aging discs are the subject of this review article on the topic.

There are 33 vertebrae or spinal bones. Between each vertebra is a disc made of tough cartilage with a fluid center. These discs provide the cushion that allows your backbone to bend and twist. Discs also act like shock absorbers as we walk, run, and jump. Each vertebral segment consists of bone next to bone with a cartilage cushion between. They are tied together with connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons.

Degenerative disc disease is an example of something that affects most people as they get older. Everyone is going to have a certain amount of damage to the spine. This occurs throughout a lifetime. The discs can flatten, and protrude from between the bones. In time, most people will have small tears in the outer layers of these discs.

Finding ways to repair damage to the discs is the focus of many research studies. One of the most recent directions in research has been the use of biologic therapies to restore the disc. Examples of these treatment approaches include disc cell reimplantation, stem cell implantation, disc denervation, injection of therapeutic proteins, and gene therapy.

What are these therapies and how do they work? Biologic therapies of this type are meant to help at the cellular level. Scientists have shown that inside the cells of the disc there is a limited amount of blood flow. As a result, there are waste products building up. The cell becomes very acidic and that is a harsh environment that doesn't support cell health very well.

As we age, there are fewer new cells to replace the old. Fluid leaks out of the discs that never gets replaced. We start to lose the strength of the discs needed to cushion and support the spine. A loss of disc height can lead to disc space collapse.

That's what's happening on the inside at the cellular level. On the outside, the affected individual may not feel anything until the degenerative process has gone on quite a while. Eventually, back pain, loss of motion, and loss of function get our attention. By then, there may not be much that can be done to save the disc. Right now, surgery to remove the disc is often the only option.

That could change if any of these biologic therapies can be perfected. Right now they are still in the experimental stages. Most of the studies have been done on animals but a few human trials have been conducted.

For example, disc tissue reimplantation is a process in which a few healthy cells are removed from an intact disc. They are taken to a lab where they can be multiplied and then reinjected into the diseased disc. The hope is that the new, healthy cells will replace the damaged cells and restore the strength of t...

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