The future of total disc replacement technology + spinal disc regeneration — Key thoughts from Dr. Scott Blumenthal

Surface Technology

Earlier this month, Orthofix acquired Spinal Kinetics, an artificial disc company, for up to $105 million.


The company's M6 artificial disc is designed to mimic the anatomic structures of a natural disc and have an artificial visco-elastic nucleus and fiber annulus. Here, Scott Blumenthal, MD, of Plano-based Texas Back Institute, discusses the disc and where he sees spinal technology headed in the future.

Question: What do you think of Orthofix's acquisition of Spinal Kinetics? What differentiation does the M6 disc provide?

Dr. Scott Blumenthal: Spinal Kinetics has done a great job of marketing its product. Patients are coming in and asking for the disc by name. The biggest advantage the company has is its marketing advantage because consumers understand its design benefits; the normal disc squishes in the middle and so does this disc, whereas other discs don't. Load sharing is an issue with other discs, but the Spinal Kinetics disc doesn't have that problem.

Physicians will ask to see the data behind whether the disc has better outcomes, and we don't have that data yet. However, patients don't care about the data; they will still ask for it and surgeons may want to be the first to offer it.

Q: What do you see as the biggest innovation in implant material?

SB: There are titanium materials, PEEK implants, titanium-coated PEEK implants, micro-textured PEEK, pure metals and others. Titan says they have the only true nanotechnology on the market, and we still need stronger data backed up by clinical science. In terms of outcomes, I haven't seen presented clinical data to show one beats the other. They can market against each other, but ultimately they need clinical studies.

Q: Where do you see biologics and stem cells headed in 2018 and beyond?

SB: Mesoblast just completed enrollment for its study, which was truly blinded; the physicians administering the injections didn't know who got the Mesoblast and who didn't. That will be really interesting to see. We are six months away from that data. There is another company in San Diego, Vivex, that has started a clinical trial with allograft material. They are another company to keep an eye on; we've met with dozens of these companies and Vivex is the first one that said they would put money into a study of their products.

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