Intervertebral Disc Tissue Engineering


The primary cause of lower back pain is intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration, with $90 billion spent annually on treatment. Current treatment options are limited and surgical intervention can cause further degradation of the adjacent discs and loss of range of motion. Because of these constraints, tissue engineered IVDs have become an increasing popular research target.

Current Research

  • Developing biologically inspired methods to repair punctured discs [Collaborations: Hartl Lab (Weill Cornell), Fidia Farmaccutici S.p.A.]
  • Tissue Engineering of whole IVD replacements [Collaborations: Hartl Lab (Weill Cornell)]

We have developed repair and replacement strategies for IVDs that have been investigated in both large and small animal models. High-density photocrosslinkable collagen gels have been developed in this lab as a means to patch a punctured disc and maintain disc height, a metric of disc health. The replacement IVD we are investigating is a composite tissue engineered IVD made from primary ovine nucleus pulposus (NP) and annulus fibrosis (AF) cells suspended in alginate and collagen respectively. These TE-IVDs have been shown to be effective in vivo when implanted in the caudal spines of rats and beagles.

Lab Members



Hartl Lab – Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, New York, NY

Fidia Farmaccutici S.p.A. – Amno Terme, Italy



Photograph of a tissue engineered intervertebral disc (left) and the native disc (right).


side-by-side-contrast-discsTissue engineered intervertebral disc (left) and native intervertebral disc (right).