Spinal surgery presents a challenge for both neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery. Due to
the heterogeneous differentiation potential of mesenchymal stem cells, there is much interest in the
treatment of spine surgery. Animal and human trials focussing on the efficacy of mesenchymal stem
cells in spinal cord injury, spine fusion and disc degeneration were included in this systematic review.
Published articles up to January 2016 from MEDLINE, PubMed and Ovid were used by searching for
specific terms. Of the 2595 articles found, 53 met the selection criteria and were included for analysis
(16 on spinal cord injury, 28 on intervertebral disc repair and 9 on spinal fusion). Numerous studies
reported better results when the mesenchymal stem cells were used in co-culture with other cells or
used in scaffolds. Mesenchymal stem cells were also found to have an immune-modulatory role, which
can improve surgical outcome. This systematic review suggests that mesenchymal stem cells can be
used safely and effectively for these spinal surgery treatments. Whilst, in certain studies, mesenchymal
stem cells did not necessarily show improved results from existing treatments, they provide an alternative
option. This can reduce morbidity that arises from current surgical treatment.
Keywords: Intervertebral disc repair, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), spinal cord injury, spinal fusion, systematic review.
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