Victims of chronic back pain have been offered a fresh hope with 'spinal disc transplant'.
Keith Luk at the University of Hong Kong Medical Centre has developed a way to harvest the soft tissue discs that absorb shocks and let the spine flex from cadavers and transplant them into patients.
Nearly four out of five people experience back pain at some point in their lives. For the worst affected, having some vertebrae fused together is the only way to prevent further pain. But this puts an increased burden on the adjacent vertebrae, which can cause further problems, reports New Scientist.
According to the theoretical version of the finding, transplanting the dics and part of the vertebrae either side should overcome the problems of fused vertebrae, because the donor bone should form a natural strong bond with the recipient's tissues.
The technique consists of removing the disc along with some cartilage and bone, rinsing the section in saline solution and freezing it in a cryopreservative solution.
When needed, the extracted chunk of spine is thawed and transplanted into the patient along with growth promoters such as stem cells, to encourage natural healing.
Last year, Luk reported that the first trials of the technique, used to replace neck vertebrae, were a success.