Chronic pain in the lower back is often caused by one or more intervertebral discs having been pushed out from their original positions between the vertebrae. The most common solution is for the patient to undergo an arthrodesis, i.e. fixing the vertebrae relative to each other. However, this kind of surgical operation results in decreased mobility.
Today, intervertebral disc prostheses are made in titanium. Matts Andersson describes this kind of surgery as nothing but a slow form of arthrodesis. Instead, what his medical technology company, Ortoma, wants to create is an intervertebral disc prosthesis that is both individualized to some extent and also made in a biological textile material.
– We want to promote people’s health by decreasing rehabilitation times and increasing the mobility of patients compared to what they would have been able to expect if they had instead undergone arthrodesis. Using an intervertebral disc prosthesis in a soft material, we are able to imitate the original more closely, which will improve conditions for the patient, says Matts Andersson, who conducts his research in close collaboration with orthopaedists at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital.
Found the right material
Attempts at creating individualized discs in firm materials gave birth to the idea of making discs in textile materials. Matts Andersson came in contact with Smart Textiles through a newspaper article describing attempts at knitting a bonnet in the Knitting Lab at the Swedish School of Textiles. Currently, the project progressed to the point where a material that is able to withstand the pressure in the spine has been discovered.
– We are presently looking for a manufacturing method able to produce the textile disc, he says secretively.
Then, there are prototypes to construct and then bring back to the testing environment.
– The road to introducing a new product on the market is indeed a long one for a medical technological company. There are innumerable tests to perform and consequently vast amounts of money to invest in order for a product to be used by human patients. All development in the medical technological field has to be built on patience.
Facts: Intervertebral discs
There are intervertebral discs between all adjacent vertebrae in the spine. The disc is made up of a gelatinous core (nucleus pulposis) and is surrounded by several layers of fibrocartilage (annulus fibrosus).
Listen to a radio broadcast concerning the textile intervertebral disc made by Sveriges Radio Sjuhärad
Text: Therese Rosenblad
Illustration: Perssons Pixlar