European Spine Journal

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 447–468 | Cite as

Biological treatment strategies for disc degeneration: potentials and shortcomings

  • Günther Paesold
  • Andreas G. Nerlich
  • Norbert Boos


Recent advances in molecular biology, cell biology and material sciences have opened a new emerging field of techniques for the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. These new treatment modalities aim for biological repair of the affected tissues by introducing cell-based tissue replacements, genetic modifications of resident cells or a combination thereof. So far, these techniques have been successfully applied to various tissues such as bone and cartilage. However, application of these treatment modalities to cure intervertebral disc degeneration is in its very early stages and mostly limited to experimental studies in vitro or in animal studies. We will discuss the potential and possible shortcomings of current approaches to biologically cure disc degeneration by gene therapy or tissue engineering. Despite the increasing number of studies examining the therapeutic potential of biological treatment strategies, a practicable solution to routinely cure disc degeneration might not be available in the near future. However, knowledge gained from these attempts might be applied in a foreseeable future to cure the low back pain that often accompanies disc degeneration and therefore be beneficial for the patient.


Intervertebral disc Degeneration Disc repair Gene therapy Tissue engineering Mesenchymal stem cells 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Günther Paesold
    • 1
  • Andreas G. Nerlich
    • 2
  • Norbert Boos
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Spinal SurgeryUniversity of ZürichBalgrist, ZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of PathologyAcademic Hospital München-BogenhausenMunichGermany

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