Spine Arthroplasty's Next Generation
Spine arthroplasty--replacing either the entire disc or simply the nucleus--is one of the most promising new therapies to treat patients with herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. But the technology has had a rocky history: rushed into patients too soon, without proper clinical trials, say critics, disc replacement languished in Europe and took a long time to attract interest in the US. Moreover, first generation arthroplasty products, most notably discs, had several drawbacks that limited adoption--some were very hard to implant, for example, while others were too stiff and tended to extrude. Companies like Disc Dynamics hope to ride the wave of interest in disc and nucleus replacement as it develops new technology that is both superior to first generation products and backed by the proper kinds of clinical studies.
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SpinalMotion is one of a small number of second-generation companies that hope to follow in the path of the first artificial disc companies, with novel technologies and a more measured assessment of the market, especially the lumbar disc segment. The ultimate challenge for SpinalMotion may not be gaining market share, but finding an appropriate exit for its investors.
CoreSpine Technologies LLC is diving into the center of the spine market. The start-up is developing a tool that will more effectively clear out the nucleus of the spinal disc creating a cleaner platform upon which to perform nucleus replacement or other spinal surgeries.
Medical device investors still see great potential in companies developing products to treat the spine. But they're particularly eager to find companies with fresh new approaches toward treatments rather than those that offer a marginal improvement to current products on the market.