An Israeli scorpion set to improve spinal implant surgery

Some 300,000 spinal fusion procedures are performed every year in the US.The mere mention of a scorpion sends shivers up the spine — but an Israeli company, Scorpion Surgical Technologies, has created a new device that could give scorpions some …

Some 300,000 spinal fusion procedures are performed every year in the US.The mere mention of a scorpion sends shivers up the spine — but an Israeli company, Scorpion Surgical Technologies, has created a new device that could give scorpions some good PR for a change.

The company has developed a bone attachment system that circumvents the previous limitations of today’s spinal implant operations, giving patients improved spinal motion and surgeries that could last a lifetime.

Addressing the spinal implant surgeries market, estimated at $5 billion a year globally, Scorpion has developed a new orthopaedic and spinal anchoring implant. Its implant and method is expected to produce better results for the 300,000 spinal fusion procedures performed each year in the US to treat degenerative disk disease or scoliosis. It could open up new possibilities for “dynamic fixation” surgeries as well.

Doctors normally treat patients with spinal injuries and congenital defects by fusing vertebrate with devices and springs held down with straight screws. This method limits motion and the screws are prone to coming loose over time. Sometimes these straight screws even fall out, explains Steve Rhodes, the CEO of the Misgav Venture Accelerator, an Israeli incubator investing in Scorpion’s technology, who spoke to ISRAEL21c at Israel’s annual Biomed convention in Tel Aviv.

This is especially true in “dynamic fixation” spinal operations that intend to preserve spinal motion, he says.

“We’ve developed a curved implant that is implanted with a curved drill,” says Rhodes. “The result is an implant that pulls together vertebrate in a triangular shape which is “strong and resistant to vibration and loosening.”

Scorpion’s new technology, which can attach both “dynamic” and “fusion” implants, will be particularly attractive to patients suffering from scoliosis, a congenital defect which results in curvature of the spine and which can lead to pain and extreme deformity if not treated.

Normally more common in women, scoliosis can also develop as a secondary symptom to cerebral palsy or spinal muscular atrophy.

With a prototype now being tested in Europe, Scorpion expects its technology to start clinical trials by Q1 next year. They plan for their technology to be available to orthopedic surgeons within 2 years.

Company co-founders include entrepreneurs Dr. Asaf Ben-Arye from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Yuval Shezifi, also from the Technion; Ilan Grunberg, a biomedical specialist who has worked for companies such as GE Medical Systems; and Dr. Nissim Ohana, head of the Spine Unit at the Rabin Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

As for the company’s name — of course it was inspired by scorpions — says Arnon Epstein, the company’s chief engineer, a graduate from Tel Aviv University. Epstein says the technology – which doesn’t yet have an official name – resembles the shape of a scorpion.

Not only does it offer a superior solution to the current problems with today’s implants, he adds, it could prove to be a less invasive solution as well. “Generally speaking it might be less invasive,” he says cautiously, typical of scientists in the biotechnology field. But for treating scoliosis, this could very well be true, he surmises.

About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.