Degenerative disc disease (DDD) affects millions of people worldwide. This debilitating condition results in the progressive breakdown of the intervertebral disc, which supports the spine and allows for pain-free motion. DiscGenics is developing new approaches to regenerating the intervertebral disc using stem cells and tissue engineering.


The Intervertebral Disc

The intervertebral disc is a complex soft tissue found between the vertebral bones of the spine. It is composed of an outer, circular annulus fibrosus and an inner, gelatinous nucleus pulposus. The tissue is flanked on either side by cartilaginous endplates. The unique architecture of this tissue allows for multiaxial motion of the spine, as well as the ability to withstand compressive forces caused by gravity and movement.

Unfortunately, the intervertebral disc is prone to injury. Acute injury, for example from a car accident, can result in tears or ruptures that may require immediate surgery. Chronic injury can develop over years and decades, resulting in progressive breakdown of the extracellular matrix molecules and changes to the cells inhabiting the tissue. This progression, known as degenerative disc disease, is a painful condition that can become so extreme that the disc ruptures, requiring surgical intervention. Over $100 billion in healthcare expenditure is spent annually in the US treating issues related to back pain, with almost 20% of the population experiencing some form of back pain.

Therapeutic options for treating degenerative disc disease are few. During early stages, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy and steroid injections can be administered. After extreme injury or degeneration, the disc can be removed and the adjacent bones fused (“Spinal Fusion”), which can trigger additional degeneration in adjacent discs. There is a major unmet medical need for interventions that can delay the progression of degeneration, and provide functional improvements to the tissue after injury.

Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine

Discgenics seeks to answer this problem by harnessing tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, fields that use biology to regrow and regenerate new tissue, rather than relying on synthetic materials to replace parts of the body. The approach involves the combination of living cells, biomaterials, and chemical cues to regrow functional, architecturally accurate tissues to replace diseased or damaged areas of the body. At Discgenics, we believe that such a biologic approach has a better likelihood of long-term success for challenging orthopedic ailments such as disc disease.

Discosphere™ Technology: Discogenic Cells

We have invented a novel method to efficiently isolate stem-like progenitor cells from human adult intervertebral disc tissue. In pre-clinical studies, these cells have proved to be safe and highly potent at regenerating new intervertebral disc material.

We are developing two products:

•Injectable Discogenic Cell Therapy (IDCT) for treating patients with moderately degenerated discs.  This off-the-shelf, allogeneic product will be administered non-surgically using a percutaneous injection similar to a discogram.

•Surgical Discogenic Cell Therapy (SDCT) a minimally invasive implantable for treating patients with herniated discs.

These investigational products are under development by DiscGenics and have not been approved by the FDA or any other regulatory agency for use in human.

Please visit the ‘News’ section often to learn more about new patents, conference presentations and the most recent publications.



Figure 1: Healthy Disc

Figure 2: Degenerated Disc