The first successful transplants of human spinal discs have been performed in China, providing the potential to relieve thousands of people's back pain.
Cadaver discs were transplanted into the upper backs of five men in their late 40s and the transplants are still working well five years later, surgeons have revealed.
Experts believe that the transplants could provide a new form of spinal surgery to alleviate the chronic back pain caused by the degeneration of spinal discs between the vertebrae.
Professor Keith Luk of the University of Hong Kong wrote in the Lancet that the recipients had experienced relief from pain and that there had been no signs of rejection.
The professor told Reuters that the technique would be "one of the surgical options…instead of a fusion where the segmental motion will be lost, or an artificial disc implant where a revision will be difficult and risky in the long-term".
However, the researchers have warned that transplants in the lumber (lower) spine may prove more difficult.
Independent advice on private healthcare