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21 Spine Surgeons Researching Stem Cell Treatments Featured

Written by  Laura Dyrda | Tuesday, 24 July 2012 10:55
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Here are 21 spine surgeons who are involved in stem cell research for spinal treatment.
If you would like to recommend a spine surgeon for this list, please contact Laura at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Ian Armstrong, MD (Southern California Spine Institute, Los Angeles).
Dr. Armstrong is the medical director of Southern California Spine Institute. He previously served as the director of the spine program at Century City Hospital and Midway Hospital. He is also a founding member of CAST Surgical Center in Westwood, Calif. Throughout his career, Dr. Armstrong has worked on several different research projects including stem cell treatment and motion preservation technology.  He is a member of the North American Spine Society, American Association of Neurosurgeons and Congress of Neurological Surgeons. Dr. Armstrong earned his medical degree at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he was recognized with a fellowship grant from the National Institutes of Health for his research in spinal cord trauma. His additional training includes time at the University of Marseilles in France and a spine fellowship at the University of South Florida.

Hyun Bae, MD (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles).
Dr. Bae is the co-director of the spine fellowship program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He has a special interest in minimally invasive spine surgery and artificial disc replacement. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Bae has spent a great deal of time researching stem cell repair for degenerative disc disease and the use of growth factors to treat spinal cord injuries. He was among the first to use growth factor tissue engineering for intervertebral discs and chaired a course in 2010 for the North American Spine Society about navigating research in spinal biologics. Dr. Bae earned his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and completed his surgical residency at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. His additional training includes a spine fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland.

Ivan Cheng, MD (Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, Calif.).
Dr. Cheng is the orthopedic surgery residency program director and chair of the education committee in the orthopedic surgery department at Stanford University. He has been conducting research using stem cells for spinal cord injury for the past five years at Stanford. His research interests include biologic enhancement for spinal fusions, molecular techniques of intervertebral disc regeneration and techniques of spinal instrumentation. His research has been recognized by the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine and North American Spine Society. Dr. Cheng earned his medical degree at Harvard Medical School in Boston and completed his residency at UC Davis Medical Center. His additional training includes a fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.

Freddie Contreras, MD (Neurosurgical Associates of Texarkana, Texarkana, Texas). Dr. Contreras joined Neurosurgical Associates of Texarkana in 1987, where he has been practicing ever since. He is among a group of three surgeons from the practice who have used the stem cell procedure from Harvest Technologies to treat back pain. The procedure requires surgeons to extract bone marrow from the patient's hip and process it through a device to concentrate a dose of cells that can be re-implanted into the patient to promote healing. He was among the first surgeons to use the technology on the minimally invasive procedure. Dr. Contreras earned his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma Medical School in Oklahoma City and completed his residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Texas.

Rick B. Delamarter, MD (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles).
Dr. Delamarter is the co-medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center and vice chair for spine services in the department of surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He has a vast interest in non-fusion and minimally invasive techniques, including the use of growth factors for fusion and stem cells for repairing degenerative disc disease. During his career, he was among the first to use growth factor tissue engineering for intervertebral discs as well as multi-level artificial disc replacement for both the lumbar and cervical spine. His research has also reflected his passion for advanced spinal procedures, and his research has been recognized by the North American Spine Society and International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine. Dr. Delamarter earned his medical degree at the University of Oregon Health Science Center in Portland and completed his residency at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. His additional training includes a fellowship in spine surgery at Case Western Reserve University in Detroit and additional training at the Acute Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Cleveland Veteran's Hospital.

Randall Dryer, MD (Central Texas Spine Institute, Austin).
Dr. Dryer has an interest in several spine surgery techniques, including harvesting adult stem cells from a patient's body and using them during spine surgery to promote tissue regeneration. Throughout his career, he has participated in several research projects on topics such as spinal joint/facet replacement for lumbar spinal stenosis and disc replacement, including research on Medtronic Prestige cervical disc. He is a member of several professional societies, including North American Spine Society and Cervical Spine Research Society. He is also a past president of the Texas Spine Society. Dr. Dryer earned his medical degree at the University of Iowa Medical School in Iowa City and completed a fellowship in spine surgery at New Addenbrooks Hospital in Cambridge, England.

Richard Fessler, MD (Northwestern University, Chicago).
Throughout his career, Dr. Fessler has been a pioneer in minimally invasive surgical techniques and was among the first spine surgeons to perform human embryonic spinal cord transplantation. He has also participated in a clinical trial to test the use of embryonic stem cells in patients with thoracic spine injuries. During the trial, surgeons injected a specific type of embryonic stem cells directly into the injury site to create myelin for protecting the nerves. Previously, Dr. Fessler participated in an Illinois panel to protect stem cell research, hosted by U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Dr. Fessler previously founded and directed the Institute for Spine Care at Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch and has served as a professor of neurological surgery at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Fessler earned his medical degree at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, where he also completed his residency in neurological surgery. His additional training includes research fellowships in physiatry and neurosurgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Richard Hynes, MD (The BACK Center, Melbourne, Fla.).
Dr. Hynes is the president of The BACK Center, where he has practiced since 1992. Dr. Hynes has a professional interest in using stem cells for spine surgeries in conjunction with rhBMP-2 to promote fusion in patients undergoing spinal fusion. His clinical work focuses on whether there is a better chance of achieving fusion with a higher concentration of stem cells. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and diplomate of the North American Spine Society. Dr. Hynes earned his medical degree at Rutgers Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry in Piscataway, N.J., and completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Tripler Army Medical Center, University of Hawaii, in Honolulu. His additional training includes a spine surgery fellowship at Harvard University and Beth Israel Hospital.

Stanley Jones, MD (SpineCare, Houston).
Dr. Jones earned national recognition for performing spine surgery using stem cells on Texas Governor and former Republican candidate for the presidential nomination Rick Perry. The procedure, developed by RNL BIO, a company specializing in adult stem cell therapeutics, is one that Dr. Jones received himself in Kyoto, Japan. He found the spinal infusion procedure so effective that he decided to incorporate it into his spine practice. Dr. Jones has been director of spine care services at Memorial Hermann Hospital, Southwest, and is a diplomat of the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. He is also a member of North American Spine Society, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Board of Spine Surgery. Dr. Jones also spent time serving as captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and completed his residency at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. His additional training includes a fellowship at Wellseley Hospital in Toronto.

Kee Kim, MD (UC Davis Health System, Sacramento).
Dr. Kim is the chief of spinal neurosurgery at UC Davis and co-director of the UC Davis Spine Center. He is involved in several clinical trials for artificial disc replacement and minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Kim is also the principle investigator for the Mesoblast trials at UC Davis as well as a parallel study where patients with advanced disc degeneration who had undergone removal of their cervical disc were injected with stem cells to promote vertebrae fusion.  Dr. Kim is a member of the International Society for Computer-Aided Surgery, International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery and North American Spine Society. He earned his medical degree at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and completed his residency in neurological surgery at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. His additional training includes a fellowship in spine surgery at the University of California Los Angeles.

Jeffrey Kleiner, MD (Medical Center of Aurora, Aurora, Colo.).
Dr. Kleiner was among the first spine surgeons to perform a discectomy in the United States using adult stem cell to help repair a patient's lower back in 2008. He partnered with the Colorado-based company Regenerative Sciences to perform the surgery. For the procedure, surgeons harvest stem cells from the patient and culture them before placing them into the patients' spines during minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Kleiner earned his medical degree at the University of Colorado Health Science Center in Denver and completed his residency at the University of California in San Diego. His additional training includes a fellowship at Rocky Mountain Spine Clinic in Lone Tree, Colo.

Carl Lauryssen, MD (Tower Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Beverly Hills, Calif.).
Dr. Lauryssen was among the first neurosurgeons in the country to inject stem cells into a human spinal cord as part of an FDA trial. He currently serves as the co-director of spine research and development and lead spine surgeon at Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles. His research and surgical interests focus on minimally invasive surgery and motion preservation, and he has been awarded the young investigator award twice from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons for his work with cervical disorders and stem cell research. In addition to his clinical work and research, Dr. Lauryssen has participated in device development and holds multiple patents and inventions currently used by spine surgeons across the country. Dr. Lauryssen earned his medical degree at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and completed his neurosurgical residency at University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. His additional training includes a fellowship in spinal neurosurgical surgery at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Allen D. Levi, MD (University of Miami Health System).
Dr. Levi is the chief of neurosurgery at the University of Miami Hospital and chief of neurospine services at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Dr. Levi oversees several ongoing clinical trials and is actively researching treatment for spinal cord injury, including cellular transplantation of Schwann cells and stem cells. During his career he has authored more than 90 peer review publications and 25 text book chapters. He also performs artificial disc procedures and minimally invasive spine surgery techniques. Dr. Levi earned his medical degree at the University of Ottawa in Canada and completed his residency at the University of Toronto. His additional training includes a spine fellowship at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.

Chris Meyer, MD (Foundation Surgical Hospital, Bellaire, Texas).
Dr. Meyer is at the forefront of using stem cell therapy for regenerating tissue and has extensive experience harvesting adult stem cells during routine spine procedures to treat back pain. After harvesting bone marrow from the iliac crest, he processes it in the Celling Technologies system that concentrates the bone marrow to the desired level for healing. In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Meyer has been on faculty at the University of Texas and is interested in developing new techniques and instrumentation for minimally invasive procedures. Dr. Meyer has served as the president of the Texas Spine Society and is a member of North American Spine Society. Dr. Meyer earned his medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center/New York Orthopedic Hospital, both in New York City. His additional training includes a spine fellowship at the Kenton D. Letherman Spine Program in Louisville, Ky.

Kenneth Pettine, MD (Rocky Mountain Associates in Orthopedic Medicine, Loveland, Colo.).
Dr. Pettine recently became the first spine surgeon to successfully use the Mesoblast Limited technology during the Phase 2 clinical trial of its Adult Mesenchymal Precursor Cell product for treating patients with lower back pain and degenerative disc disease. The injection of Mesoblast's allogenic MPCs is designed to reverse the degenerative process, re-grow disc cartilage and sustain normalization of disc pathology, anatomy and function. Dr. Pettine is the co-founder of Rocky Mountain Associates, The Spine Institute and Loveland Surgery Center. Throughout his career, Dr. Pettine has been an innovator and is the co-inventor of the Maverick Artificial Disc. He holds three patents for artificial discs and has been involved in several investigations of spine devices. Dr. Pettine earned his medical degree at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver and completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. His additional training includes a fellowship at the Institute for Low Back Care in Minneapolis.

Kevin Rahn, MD (Fort Wayne Orthopaedics Spine Center, Fort Wayne, Ind.).
Dr. Rahn is an orthopedic spine surgeon at Fort Wayne Orthopaedics with a special interest in treating patients with degenerative disorders. Dr. Rahn is actively involved in stem cell research and uses motion preservation techniques and laser procedures when treating his patients. Along with his colleague at Fort Wayne Orthopaedics Robert Shugart, MD, Dr. Rahn is researching the effectiveness of injecting mesenchymal precursor stem cells into the center of the target disc for patients with moderate lumbar degenerative disc disease with the Mesoblast procedure. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Rahn is a member of the North American Spine Society, Scoliosis Research Society and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Dr. Rahn earned his medical degree at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison and completed his residency at Lutheran Hospital of Indiana in Fort Wayne. His additional training includes a fellowship in spine surgery at PSC in Louisville, Ky., and Tulane University in New Orleans.

Bernard Rawlins, MD (Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City). 
Dr. Rawlins is a spine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery with research interests in gene-mediated spine fusion, spine biomechanics and innovative surgical techniques. His clinical trials include osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells and he has written several scientific chapters and articles on biologic treatment. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Rawlins is a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Cervical Spine Research Society and Scoliosis Research Society. He is the spine consultant for the New York Knicks and New York Mets. Dr. Rawlins earned his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and completed his residency in orthopedic surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. His additional training includes a spine surgery fellowship at the Minnesota Spine Center in Minneapolis.

Robert M. Shugart, MD (Fort Wayne Orthopaedics Spine Center, Fort Wayne, Ind.).
Dr. Shugart is an orthopedic spine surgeon at Fort Wayne Orthopaedics Spine Center, where he has been a member since 1993. Along with colleague Kevin Rahn, MD, Dr. Shugart is examining the effectiveness of injecting mesenchymal precursor stem cells into the center of the disc for patients with moderate lumbar degenerative disc disease with the Mesoblast procedure. Beyond his clinical studies, Dr. Shugart is a member of the North American Spine Society, International Society for Minimal Intervention Spinal Surgery and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He earned his medical degree at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and completed his residency at Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester, Minn. His additional training includes a fellowship at the San Francisco Spine Institute in Daly City, Calif.

Jonathan Slotkin, MD (Geisinger Health System, Danville, Conn.).
Dr. Slotkin is medical director of InVivo Therapeutics, a medical device company focused on solutions for patients with spinal cord injury with a new scaffold that includes human neural stem cells. In this role, he assists the company with regulatory submissions, clinical and medical reporting and clinical trail monitoring. His expertise includes minimally invasive and complex spine surgery as well as spinal oncology. At Geisinger, Dr. Slotkin is the director of spinal surgery and director of spinal cord research. He earned his medical degree at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and completed his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital. His additional training includes a fellowship at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston.

Gary K. Steinberg, MD (Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, Calif.).
Dr. Steinberg is chair of the Stanford University School of Medicine neurosurgery department. He has a strong background in stem cell biology and participated in the Geron Corp trails at Stanford treating patients with spinal cord injury using the company's stem cell technology. Throughout his career, Dr. Steinberg has researched the use of stem cells in models of neurological injury or illness and received $20 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to study how neural stem cells could be used to treat patients with ischemic stroke. Dr. Steinberg earned his medical degree at Stanford University School of Medicine and completed his residency at SUMC. His additional training includes a fellowship at the Institute of Neurology England.

Gowriharan Thaiyananthan, MD (Basic Spine: Brain & Spine Institute of California, Orange).
Dr. Thaiyananthan is founder and head surgeon at Basic Spine: Brain & Spine Institute of California. He has experience using cadaveric stem cells, donor stem cells and patients' own mesenchymal stem cells as graft material during spine procedures. He also has a professional interest in minimally invasive surgical techniques and often treats patients with degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and scoliosis. In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Thaiyananthan has published articles in several peer-reviewed journals and is a member of the North American Spine Society and American Association of Neurological Surgeons. He earned his medical degree at the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his neurosurgery residency at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital. His additional training includes a fellowship in minimally invasive and complex spine surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Institute for Spinal Disorders.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 12:59
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