Novel Tissue-Engineered Implant to Repair Spinal Annular Defects

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a tissue-engineered implant with regenerative potential intended to treat spinal annular defects through the delivery of biological and mechanical factors. The implant directly enhances healing within the annular defect and prevents recurrence of herniation symptoms.


Lower back pain is consistently among the leading reasons for physician visits, hospitalizations, and surgeries in the United States. Physical limitation from lower back pain is the most common cause of work absence in people aged under 45 and is the leading cause of years lived with disability in the United States.

Hernia of the intervertebral disc (otherwise known as a spinal annular defect) is a major cause of lower back pain, with a prevalence of approximately 3% of adults and this high prevalence is continually increasing due to the aging population. Current therapies for IVD hernia frequently fail to prevent symptomatic recurrence leading to additional medical treatment and economic burden.

Currently, surgical treatments for spinal annular defects are palliative and include: (1) laminectomy with partial discectomy, (2) vertebral interbody fusion, and (3) disc arthroplasty. All of the current treatments listed here fail to restore the native tissue’s durability and range of motion. Furthermore, the most prominent complications associated with these treatments are symptomatic re-herniation and revision surgery.

Accordingly, advanced surgical strategies are essential to treat the impaired function and severe pain associated with common IVD pathologies.


The regenerative implant developed here is intended to be fixed within an annular defect space.  The design is focused on treating the posterior and posterolateral aspects of human lumbar intervertebral discs.  However, the design may be applied to any annular positions, any intervertebral disc level, and any vertebrate species.  The implant is uniquely designed to attach to the spine in a manner that transmits mechanical loads from the body to the implant.

This loading: (1) provides the necessary mechanical support for the spine, (2) maintains sufficient mechanical compliance for healthy biomechanical functional of the spine, and (3) generates a micromechanical environment within the scaffold that stimulates tissue regeneration.

Accordingly, the implant is intended to incite tissue regeneration in the annular defect that will prevent symptomatic recurrence of disc herniation and maintain full spinal motion. Instead of removal or replacement of the IVD, this therapeutic alternative is focused on the regeneration of diseased tissue.

This device represents a paradigm shift in treatment to both alleviate pain and restore physiologic function following IVD degeneration.


  • Promotes regeneration of the annulus fibrosus
  • Focused on the restoration of physiological function of the spine
  • No removal of the intervertebral disc
  • Provides necessary mechanical support for spine and promotes healthy biomechanical function


  • Therapeutic alternative to herniated disc repair
  • Treatment of spinal annual defects
Last Updated: August 2023

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​Christian Puttlitz
Mitchell Page

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