Over time, the cartilaginous discs between the vertebrae wear off from stress or suffer accidents, which can cause severe back pain. This problem is acutely relevant all over the world - and therefore, recently, scientists have been exploring the possibility of replacing them with synthetic analogs.
However, according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania (USA), the possibilities of synthetic implants are very limited, since they do not fully fulfill the dynamic functions of real cartilage, and some of them quickly fail. The know-how of American scientists is stem cell-based biotechnological discs.
Research is in the stage of laboratory testing on animals. At the first stage, mesenchymal stem cells that form cartilage are taken from the experimental animal. They are then added to a scaffolding-like matrix of hydrogel and polymer sandwiched between two polymer end plates.
Stem cells penetrate this matrix, gradually replacing it with natural cartilage. As a result, a disc is formed, consisting of animal cartilage, which is then (surgically) implanted to replace the worn out one.
At the first stage, the experiments were carried out on the tail vertebrae of rats, where the grown discs "lasted" up to 20 weeks. Further, the object of research was goats, whose vertebrae are in many ways similar to human ones. The result was no less encouraging - 8 weeks. Research continues with the prospect of human participation.