The Use of Cultured Bone Marrow Cells in Type I Collagen Gel and Porous Hydroxyapatite for Posterolateral Lumbar Spine Fusion

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Study Design.

Posterolateral lumbar transverse process fusion was completed using the cultured bone marrow cells in type I collagen gel and porous hydroxyapatite.


To compare the efficacy of cultured bone marrow cells with that of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) as a graft alternative to autologous bone for posterolateral spine fusion.

Summary of Background Data.

The clinical application of BMP for spinal fusion may be limited by high dose and cost. Recently, mesenchymal stem cells have been studied in various fields because of their capability to differentiate into various cells, including those in the osteogenic lineage.


Thirty adult rabbits were used. Each underwent single-level, bilateral, posterolateral intertransverse process fusions at L4–L5. The animals were divided into 4 groups, each according to the material implanted: (1) autologous bone (autograft, n = 9); (2) porous hydroxyapatite (HA) particles and type I collagen sheet with 100 μg rhBMP-2 (BMP-HA, n = 7); (3) bone marrow cells (1 × 106cells/mL, low-marrow-HA, n = 7); and (4) bone marrow cells (1 × 108cells/mL, high-marrow-HA, n = 7). Before implantation for groups 3 and 4, fresh bone marrow cells from the iliac crest of each animal were cultured in a standard medium for 2 weeks. For one additional week, the marrow cells were cultured in 10−8M dexamethasone, type I collagen gel, and HA. Animals were euthanized 6 weeks after surgery. Spinal fusions were evaluated by radiograph, manual palpation, and histology.


The fusion rates were 4 of 7 in the autograft group, 7 of 7 in the BMP-HA group, 0 of 7 in the low-marrow-HA group, and 5 of 7 in the high-marrow-HA group. The histology in the BMP-HA and high-marrow-HA groups showed that grafted HA fragments were connected with mature new bone. The pores of HA fragments were filled up with bone matrix. In the low-marrow-HA group, fibrous tissue was predominant in the grafted fragments.


This study shows that the cultured bone marrow cells can act as a substitute for autograft or BMP in spine fusion. The current formulation may yield improved fusion success and better quality of fusion bone as compared to autograft.

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