If all goes according to plan, surgery for slipped disc may no longer limit flexibility and mobility of those who get the procedure done. Students and professors at the Textile Department of IIT-Delhi are in the process of developing a bio-compatible disc that can be implanted in serious cases.
"Currently, patients are prescribed pain killers and some exercises. When degeneration of the disc is in an advanced stage, doctors remove that disc and implant a ceramic disc or join two vertebrae together. The problem of pain is solved at the cost of flexibility of spine," said Sourabh Ghosh, assistant professor, IIT-Delhi, who is heading the project. "The project is currently at the trial stages, which are being conducted in Switzerland. The response has been quite positive so far," said Ghosh.
The disc, which is being developed using silk fibres and stem cells - both of which are compatible with the human body, will be a boon for those who lose the ability to move freely after surgery. "Silk fibre is made up of amino acids that are also present in our body. So, it is easier for the body to accept it. It also degrades at a faster pace," Ghosh said.
The project is being funded by DST Indo-Swiss Joint Research Project. Professor Alok R Ray, head, centre for biomedical research, IIT-Delhi, and Professor Ivan Martin, University of Basel, Switzerland, are also collaborating with Ghosh's team.
Along with the intervertebral discs, the team is also working on tissue engineering for medical research. Currently, trials are conducted on animals, raising ethical issues.