European Spine Journal

, Volume 17, Supplement 4, pp 480–491 | Cite as

Tissue engineering and the intervertebral disc: the challenges



Disc degeneration is a common disorder. Although the back pain that can develop in association with this is rarely life-threatening, the annual cost in terms of morbidity, lost productivity, medical expenses and workers’ compensation benefits is significant. Surgical intervention as practised currently is directed towards removing the damaged or altered tissue. Development of new treatment modalities is critical as there is a growing consensus that the strategies used currently for symptomatic degenerative disc disease may not be effective. Accordingly, there is a need to develop an entirely new way to treat this disorder; regenerative medicine and tissue engineering approaches appear particularly promising in this regard. This paper reviews some of the challenges that currently are limiting the clinical application of this approach to the treatment of disc degeneration.


Tissue engineering Intervertebral disc Implantation Review 



This work was supported by EU “MyJoint” (FP6: 28861(NEST)) (SR and JU) and CIHR and NIHR21 (RK). We thank Godfrey Chang for his help in preparing Fig. 1 and Andy Biggs for Fig. 2.

Conflict of interest statement

None of the authors has any potential conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rita Kandel
    • 1
  • Sally Roberts
    • 2
  • Jill P. G. Urban
    • 3
  1. 1.CIHR-Bioengineering of Skeletal Tissues TeamMount Sinai HospitalTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Spinal Studies and ISTMKeele University, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic HospitalOswestryUK
  3. 3.Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Le Gros Clark BuildingOxford UniversityOxfordUK

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