Stephen published an article entitled Biologic Annulus Fibrosus Repair: A Review of Preclinical In Vivo Investigations in Tissue Engineering, Part B.
Lower back pain, the leading cause of workplace absences and disability, is often attributed to intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration in which nucleus pulposus (NP) herniates through lesions in the annulus fibrosus (AF) and impinges on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. Surgeons remove extruded NP via discectomy when indicated by local/radicular pain supported by radiographic evidence, however current interventions do not alter the underlying disease or seal the AF. The reported rates of recurrent herniation or pain following discectomy cases range from 5-25%, which has pushed spine research in recent years towards annular repair and closure strategies. Synthetic implants designed to mechanically seal the AF have been subject to large animal and clinical trials, with limited success in preventing recurrent herniation. Like gold standard interventions, purely mechanical devices fail to promote tissue integration, long term healing, or restore native biomechanical function to the spine. Biological repair strategies utilizing principles of tissue engineering have demonstrated success in overcoming the inadequacies of current interventions and mechanical implants, yet none have reached clinical or proof-of-concept trials in humans. In this review, we will discuss annular repair strategies promoting biological healing that have been implemented in small and large animal models in vivo, and ways to enhance the efficacy of these treatments.