60 spine surgeons on the forefront of biologics & stem cells


Here are 60 spine surgeons who are participating in clinical trials or have a research focus on biologics and/or stem cells for spine surgery.

If you would like to recommend an addition to this list, contact Laura Dyrda at ldyrda@beckershealthcare.com.


Howard An, MD (Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, Chicago). Dr. An's research into intervertebral disc repair or regeneration with growth factors was recognized at an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons annual meeting with the Kappa Delta Award. He continues to research spinal biomechanics and tissue engineering.


Neel Anand, MD (Cedars-Sinai medical Center, Los Angeles). Dr. Anand's practice, Anand Spine Group, was approved as one of the nationwide centers to participate in the Phase II clinical trails for NuQu from ISTO Technologies, a therapy using cartilage cells in possible disc regeneration. Dr. Anand is the director of spine trauma at Cedars Sinai Spine Center and has been the principal investigator in several clinical trials.


Ian Armstrong, MD (Southern California Spine Institute, Los Angeles). Dr. Armstrong is the medical director of Southern California Spine Institute. Throughout his career, Dr. Armstrong has worked on several different research projects including stem cell treatment and motion preservation technology. He previously served as the director of the spine program at Century City Hospital and Midway Hospital and is a founding member of CAST Surgical Center in Westwood, Calif.


Hyun Bae, MD (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles). Dr. Bae is director of spine education at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. 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.


Scott Boden, MD (Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, Atlanta). Dr. Boden is director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center in Atlanta. He has at least six patents for medical devices and his research is focused on bone regeneration, spine fusion and spinal disorders. During Dr. Boden's career he has been the clinical director of The Whitesides Orthopaedic Research Laboratory.


Nicholas Boulis, MD (Emory Healthcare, Atlanta). Dr. Boulis was among the physicians who performed the first FDA-approved stem cell injection into a patient's cervical spine for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis treatment. The four-hour operation included five cervical spine injections containing a combined more than 500,000 stem cells. Dr. Boulis' research interests include biological neurorestoration and neuromodulation through cell, protein and gene delivery to the nervous system.


Frank P. Cammisa, MD (Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City). Dr. Cammisa, chief of the spine service at Hospital for Special Surgery, is interested in autologous and synthetic biologic bone growth factors. At the Integrated Spine Research Program in the SpineCare Institute at Hospital for Special Surgery, Dr. Cammisa and his colleagues use animal models to evaluate novel materials that aid in bone growth.


Ivan Cheng, MD (Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, Calif.). Dr. Cheng 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.


Joseph Ciacci, MD (UC San Diego School of Medicine). Dr. Ciacci became the first surgeon to perform a procedure in the Phase I trial testing Neuralstem's NSI-566 human neural stem cells for chronic spinal cord injury in 2014. The procedure transplants stem cells directly into the injury region. He is the chief of neurosurgery VASDHS.


Domagoj Coric, MD (Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates, Charlotte, N.C.). Dr. Coric recently performed the second surgery in InVivo Therapeutics' clinical trial to treat spinal cord injury patients with stem cell technology. He was a lead investigator and author of "Prospective study of disc repair with allogenic chondrocytes," which describes the initial clinical experience with a cell-based biological therapy for treating degenerative disc disease. He is the chief of neurosurgery at Carolina Medical Center.


Matthew Cunningham, MD (Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City). Dr. Cunningham has conducted research related to intervertebral disc regeneration and published literature on tissue-engineered intervertebral disc procedures to produce new matrix, maintain disc height and restore biomechanical function to the rodent spine. He is working on basic and translational research to investigate disc physiology with the ultimate goal to use small molecules or gene-therapy as tools to drive conversion of disc tissue into bone for purpose of spine fusion.


Randall Dryer, MD (Central Texas Spine Institute, Austin). Dr. Dryer is a spine surgeon with the Central Texas Spine Institute who focuses on treatment of the cervical and lumbar spine. Along with his practice, Dr. Dryer has participated in FDA-approved clinical trials and spearheaded innovative procedures, such as using adult stem cells from a patient's body to aid in tissue regeneration.


Richard G. Fessler, MD (Rush University Medical Center, Chicago). Dr. Fessler was the first physician in the United States to perform a human embryonic spinal cord transplant in 1997. He has been a medical specialist and flight surgeon for NASA and participated in the first FDA trial to test the use of embryonic stem cells in patients with thoracic spine injuries.


Mark Flood, DO (Laser Spine Institute, Tampa, Fla.). Dr. Flood is the chief of surgical innovation and an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Fla. He is an innovator with the RegenaDISC system, which uses stem cell therapy and low-level laser spinal decompression to repair discs.


Gary Ghiselli, MD (Denver Spine Surgeons). Dr. Ghiselli was the principal investigator in the FDA-cleared adult stem cell study testing the novel treatment for chronic low back pain, which began in early 2012. The study used mesenchymal precursor cells to be injected directly into the lumbar disc.


Sanjitpal Singh Gill, MD (Medical Group of the Carolinas, Spartanburg, S.C.). Dr. Gill is an assistant professor in the department of engineering at Clemson University where he is researching biologic disc replacement. He has a special interest in treating athletes and was head team physician for the United States Adaptive Ski Team and provided medical coverage for the United States Pro Cycling championships.


Steven Glassman, MD (Norton Leatherman Spine Center, Louisville, Ky.). Dr. Glassman is a member of the board of directors for the Scoliosis Research Society and has been a program chair for the North American Spine Society. He focuses on patient-based outcomes and cost-effectiveness for spinal surgery, as well as the role of biologics in spinal fusion.


Christopher Good, MD (Virginia Spine Institute, Reston). As the director of research at Virginia Spine Institute, Dr. Good serves as the principal investigator and oversees several trials investigating robot-guided spine surgery. He performed the first robot-guided surgery during a thoracic fusion procedure to repair a spinal fracture in Mid-Atlantic. Dr. Good also participated in the FDA trial investigating the safety and efficacy of genetically engineered bone graft to promote fusion. He has participated in numerous FDA-approved studies and has a professional interest in biologics and the use of stem cells in spinal surgery.


Roger Hӓrtl, MD (Well Cornell Brain and Spine Center, New York City). Dr. Hӓrtl is currently investigating two biological materials in animal models: the tissue-engineered intervertebral discs and collagen gel. The tissue-engineered discs are composites of collagen gel harvested from rat tail tendons and seeded with intervertebral discs from sheep spines. He is director of spinal surgery and neurotrauma at Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center.


Michael Hasz, MD (Virginia Spine Institute, Reston). As a spinal surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute, Dr. Hasz oversees clinical trials investigating minimally invasive surgical techniques and currently serves as Principal Investigator for SI joint fusion clinical trials. He performs stem cell therapy for disc degeneration by harvesting the patient's own adult stem cells from their bone marrow. His latest advances also include biologic agents to promote spinal fusion. Dr. Hasz travels internationally to train fellow spine surgeons on the latest minimally invasive techniques.


Robert F. Heary, MD (Neurological Institute of New Jersey, Newark). Dr. Heary is the director of the Spine Center at the Neurological Institute of New Jersey. His major areas of interest include minimally invasive spine surgery, spine injury, spine tumors and spinal deformity. He has conducted endowed research on the effects of injured neurons on mesenchymal stem cells.


Michael Heggeness, MD (KU School of Medicine, Witchita, Kan.). In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Heggeness completed his PhD in biochemistry from the University of California at San Francisco. His research interests include the anatomy and biomechanics of the spine, nerve investigations and developing new techniques for tissue engineering of bone that seeks to use molecular genetic techniques to stimulate fusion and healing of fractures.


Patrick C. Hsieh, MD (Keck Medicine of USC, Los Angeles). Dr. Hsieh is involved in several research projects, including the development of primary cell lines and xenograft model for Chordoma. He is on the forefront of the shift in technology for restorative care and using stem cells for spinal cord injury. Dr. Hsieh is director of the minimally invasive spine program at the USC Spine Center.


Wellington Hsu, MD (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago). Dr. Hsu is director of the Professional Athlete's Spine Initiative, which compiles data on athletes who undergo treatment for spinal conditions. At Northwestern, Dr. Hsu heads the Laboratory for Regenerative Technologies. He has a research interest in tissue engineering and bone graft substitutes for spinal fusion.


Richard A. Hynes, MD (The BACK Center, Melbourne, Fla.). Dr. Hynes has participated in numerous FDA-approved studies and has a professional interest in biologics and the use of stem cells in spinal surgery. Along with his clinical work, Dr. Hynes has served as a director of TXEDAKA, a charity that helps low-income individuals gain access to the medical care they need.


Arthur L. Jenkins, MD (Mount Sinai Health System, New York City). Dr. Jenkins is a principle investigator for the InVivio Therapeutics stem cell clinical trial and will be participating in the StemCells Inc., clinical trial to study the human central nervous system stem cell transplantation in cervical spinal cord injury. He will be the primary surgeon and co-investigator and looking to be a lead site in a third trial. He completed a fellowship in neurosurgery and spine surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School. 


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.


J. Patrick Johnson, MD (Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles). Dr. Johnson research interests include biologic stem cell repair of spinal cord injuries, and has published several articles in professional journals. He previously served as the director of the Cedars-Sinai Institute for Spinal Disorders. Now, he serves as a neurosurgeon within the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center.


Robert Johnson, MD (Neurological Associates of San Antonio). Dr. Johnson completed research and testing on the efficacy of point of care adult stem cell therapies in spine surgery, in which the patient's own bone marrow cells help bone growth in spinal fusion procedures. Dr. Johnson presented his findings at the 2010 Annual Stem Cell Summit in New York. He believes the use of autologous stem cells will revolutionize medical care and prevention of spinal disorders.


Adam S. Kanter, MD (University of Pittsburgh). Dr. Kanter is the principal investigator in several research studies examining stem cell-derived biologics to induce spinal fusion. He focuses on minimally invasive procedures and provides editorial service to several peer-reviewed journals. He has a special interest in experimental therapies for spinal cord regeneration.


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. 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.


Jeffrey Kleiner, MD (The 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.


Carl Lauryssen, MD (Olympia Medical Center, Los Angeles). 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 serves as the co-director of spine research and development and lead spine surgeon at Olympia Medical Center in Los Angeles. 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.


Albert Lee, MD (Tallahassee Neurological Clinic). Dr. Lee is the principle investigator of the Mesoblast Disc Repair clinical trail at Tallahassee Neurological Clinic, which will determine the safety of the single injection of allogenic mesenchymal precursor adult cells. The cells are injected into symptomatic lumbar intervertebral discs to treat pain related to degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine.


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.


Robert Masson, MD (NeuroSpine Institute, Orlando). Dr. Masson founded his practice and is an international consultant for stem cell use in spinal injury. He advocates for spine patient prehabilitation and invented the iMAS surgical symphony for the interpedicular minimal access procedures in the lumbosacral spine.


Chris Meyer, MD (Houston Orthopedic & Spine 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. The bone marrow is concentrated to the desired level for healing.


Isaac L. Moss, MD (University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington). Dr. Moss is a spine surgeon at New England Musculoskeletal Institute of the University of Connecticut Health Center. He has a professional interest in minimally invasive spine surgery and treating a variety of spinal conditions. In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Moss earned a master's degree in biomedical engineering and has been involved in developing novel biologic therapies for intervertebral disc degeneration.


John O'Toole, MD (Rush University Medical Center, Chicago). Dr. O'Toole is an assistant professor and attending physician in the department of neurosurgery at Rush University Medical Center. Dr. O'Toole has a special interest in translational application of spinal biologics and the development of new spinal surgery techniques and devices.


Burak Ozgur, MD (Hoag Neurosciences Institute, Newport Beach, Calif.). Dr. Ozgur has a strong interest in stem cell research, spinal biomechanics and minimally invasive spine surgery development. Dr. Ozgur authored more than 27 articles in peer-reviewed publications, and completed a combined orthopedic and neurosurgical spine surgery fellowship at the University of California San Diego Medical Center.


John Peloza, MD (Texas Back Institute, Plano). Dr. Peloza was one of the first spine surgeons and clinical researchers in Dallas to use mesenchymal stem cells to treat degenerative disc disease. He has been active in using biologic solutions to promote disc and joint healing. Dr. Peloza is a pioneer in minimal access spinal surgery and was instrumental in launching the SEXTANT, MET-Rx and MAVERICK total disc replacement.


Todd Peters, MD (Todd Peters MD, Newport Beach, Calif.). Dr. Peters is focused on minimally invasive surgical disc innovations and next generation orthopedic products using human protein and growth factor materials for bone and tissue regeneration. He is the director of orthopedic and minimally invasive spine surgery at ONE Brain & Spine Center.


Kenneth Pettine, MD (The Spine Institute, Loveland, Colo.). Dr. Pettine performed the first Mesoblast procedure as part of the Phase 2 clinical trial for the company's adult Mesenchymal Precursor Cell product for lower back pain and degenerative disc disease. He has participated in two FDA studies involving biologics to treat discogenic low back pain. He holds three patents for his technology and is a member of the North American Spine Society.


Kevin Rahn, MD (Fort Wayne Orthopedics, Fort Wayne, Ind.). 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 Orthopedics 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 as part of the Mesoblast clinical trial.


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.


Harvinder S. Sandhu, MD (Hospital for Special Surgery, New York City). Dr. Sandhu is an associate attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery and an assistant scientist in the hospital's research division. He has a special interest in endoscopic spine surgery, computer-assisted spine surgery and the use of biologics. During his career, Dr. Sandhu has published several articles in peer-review publications in areas such as biologic enhancement of spine surgery.


Thomas Schuler, MD (Virginia Spine Institute, Reston). Dr. Schuler, CEO and founder of Virginia Spine Institute, has led advances in modern spinal health care that have achieved great success in restoring the lifestyles of thousands nationwide. As the president of the patient-focused, Spinal Research Foundation, a national 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, this industry giant has participated in numerous FDA-approved studies and has expertise in biologics and the use of stem cells in spinal surgery. He also performed the first robot-guided surgery during a thoracic fusion procedure to repair a spinal fracture in Mid-Atlantic Region.


Francis H. Shen, MD (University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville). Dr. Shen's research interests include applying tissue engineering principles to solving problems in spine care. His current research includes the development of techniques for managing spinal fusion and treating intervertebral disc degeneration using tissue engineering principles. He also focuses on the use of osteoinductive proteins for generating spinal fusions.


Robert M. Shugart, MD (Fort Wayne Orthopedics, Fort Wayne, Ind.). 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 as part of the Mesoblast clinical trial.


Rudolph Shrot, MD (Sutter Health, Sacramento). Dr. Shrot was among the neurosurgeons performing procedures using the Mesoblast technology to promote bone tissue growth after removing cervical discs. The new stem cell therapy uses bone marrow-derived adult stem cells to promote growth.


Jonathan Slotkin, MD (Geisinger Health System, Danville, Conn.). Dr. Slotkin is on the scientific advisory board for 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. His expertise includes minimally invasive and complex spine surgery as well as spinal oncology. He is director of spinal surgery, Geisinger Neurosciences Institute and director of spinal cord research.


Gary K. Steinberg, MD (Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, Calif.). Dr. Steinberg has a strong background in stem cell biology and participated in the Geron Corp trails at Stanford. 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.


Brian R. Subach, MD, FACS (The Virginia Spine Institute, Reston, Va.). Dr. Subach is President of The Virginia Spine Institute and Chief Scientific officer for the non-profit Spinal Research Foundation (SRF). He is a principal investigator in the Phase II clinical trial of NuQu from ISTO Technologies, a therapy using cartilage-forming cells to accomplish disc regeneration. Dr. Subach and his partners have been using autologous platelet-rich plasma and bone marrow aspirate in direct patient care with excellent results. Recently, the practice has begun enrolling patients in the Mesoblast trial for degenerative lumbar disc disease. The proprietary process immunoselects the mesenchymal precursor cells (stem cells) from adult bone marrow mononuclear cells and then expands these stem cells in culture to produce allogenic MPCs (NeoFuse).


Fernando Techy, MD (Rocky Mountain Associates in Orthopedic Medicine, Johnstown, Colo.). Dr. Techy has a special interest in using stem cells and other biologic materials in spine surgery. He performs stem cell injections into the intervertebral disc and large joins. Dr. Techy is on faculty for AO Spine North America and is a member of the Orthopaedic StemCell Institute in Colorado.


Gowriharan Thaiyananthan, MD (BASIC Spine, Orange, Calif.). Dr. Thaiyananthan is founder and head surgeon at BASIC Spine. He has experience using cadaveric stem cells, donor stem cells and patients' own mesenchymal stem cells as graft material during spine procedures.


Nicholas Theodore, MD (Barrow Neurological Associates, Phoenix). Dr. Theodore has been clinical advisor for SpinalCyte, a company developing new technology to re-grow spinal discs. Dr. Theodore is director of the neurosurgery spine program and neurotrauma as well as associate director of the neurosurgery residency program at Barrow Neurological Institute.


Jeffrey Wang, MD (Keck Medicine of USC, Los Angeles). Dr. Wang is the chief of the orthopedic spine service and co-director of the USC Spine Center. He presented at a recent North American Spine Society meeting on the eventual clinical use of stem cells in spine fusion surgery. Dr. Wang foresees stem cells being used in conjunction with growth factors such as bone morphogenetic proteins.


Michael Wang, MD (University of Miami Health System). Dr. Wang has several research interests, including the use of robots in spine surgery, resorbable spinal implants and the development of new osteobiologic agents to promote spinal fusion. During his career, Dr. Wang authored several articles published in professional journals.


Robert Watkins Jr., MD (Watkins Spine, Marina Del Rey, Calif.). Dr. Watkins is an orthopedic spine surgeon and has been co-director of the Marina Spine Center at Marina del Rey (Calif.) Hospital. He participates in research related to biologics for spine surgery, spinal fusions and surgical technology.


Eric Woodard, MD (New England Baptist Hospital, Roxbury Crossing, Mass.). Dr. Woodard is the chief medical officer of InVivo Therapeutics, a medical device company focused on finding solutions for patients with spinal cord injury, including using stem cells. Dr. Woodard is also the chief of neurosurgery at New England Baptist Hospital and former chief of spine surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, both in Boston.


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