The RECODE-DCM think tank hosts three incubator groups, covering three of the top ten priorities for research into Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM). These incubators were kickstarted by AO Spine RECODE-DCM, and their management has now transferred to as a key component of its RECODE-DCM think tank. Over time, we intend to upscale this incubator programme to cover all ten research priorities. The multi-disciplinary teams, made up of healthcare professionals as well as people living with DCM, meet regularly via Zoom to conduct research and share expertise. By bringing together this broad diversity of expertise and international perspective, we hope to solve the top ten global research priorities.
Rehabilitation Specialist Dr Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan Recommends This Valuable Opportunity for Researchers to Come Together and Solve Key Questions in DCM

Our goal is to ensure that our research is relevant across all regions of the globe. The incubators are an important part of our professional outreach initiatives. The heat maps show the regions currently represented, and we strive for ever more diverse collaboration. Please get in touch if you are keen to join us!
Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Manabu Ito from Japan Reminds Us Why International Collaboration Is Important

By getting involved in our growing number of research activities, you will add your valuable perspective. We welcome equitable input from a diverse range of stakeholders. By speaking a common language across the world, we aim to elevate DCM as a global healthcare priority. Join us and be part of the solution.

Members of the Natural History Incubator (February 2023)

The Natural History Incubator is working towards guidelines on management of asymptomatic spinal cord compression, and mild, moderate and severe DCM, with a view to understanding the disease course.
Speaking in 2020 about the conception of the incubator, which was kindly supported by AO Spine, Dr James Harrop (Chair), said: “I agreed to chair the Natural History Incubator because, I believe in order to offer patients the best treatment options you must fully understand the natural history of DCM. DCM is an extremely heterogeneous problem; you can see a patient that has MRI imaging with extreme spinal cord compression and cord signal abnormality that has no symptoms, and the next patient who has minimal radiographic compression but a severe clinical myelopathy. AO Spine has the unique perspective to solve this problem because their mission is to improve patients’ quality of life, and they are truly unbiased, organized and dedicated to improving spinal care.
Why should other experts join the community? I think we should all self-reflect and ask, “If this happened to me or my family, what would I do?” Here is your opportunity to answer what is the optimal care paradigm in an unbiased manner.”

Members of the Diagnostic Criteria Incubator (February 2023)

The Diagnostic Criteria Incubator is working to formulate reliable diagnostic criteria. Recognising that time is spine, we are committed to diagnosing DCM at an early stage of progression, which vastly improves outcomes. 
Speaking in 2020 about the conception of the incubator, which was kindly supported by AO Spine, Dr Michael Fehlings (Chair), said: “Despite the fact that DCM is the commonest cause of spinal cord impairment in adults, affecting up to 2% of the population, funding for DCM research is very limited. Unless funding levels improve, advancement of translational research will be slow. AO Spine has an excellent international network and a strong track record of facilitating knowledge creation and dissemination.
The mandates of the Diagnostic Criteria incubator are (a) to advance awareness globally of DCM, and (b) to develop objective, easily communicated criteria to diagnose DCM. These two objectives are critical to advance early diagnosis, which will lead to improved treatment and better clinical outcomes.
Why should other experts join the community? DCM requires multidisciplinary input, and AO Spine can facilitate these linkages. Surgical and nonsurgical clinicians, basic and clinical scientists, health care advocates and funders, and people with lived experience all have the opportunity to partner.”

Members of the Perioperative Rehabilitation Incubator (February 2023)

The Perioperative Rehabilitation Incubator is working towards clarity on non-operative management and developing an enhanced recovery pathway for patients prior to, during, and after surgery.
Speaking in 2020 about the conception of the incubator, which was kindly supported by AO Spine, Dr Mark Kotter (Chair 2020-2022), said: “The biggest bottleneck at present is awareness and recognition of DCM, even amongst health professionals who are actually involved in the treatment. It starts with education.
Many individuals with DCM undergo rehabilitation; I often prescribe it for my patients. However, currently there is literally no evidence on which I can base this decision.
I agreed to chair the Perioperative Rehabilitation Incubator because I would like to see the right people get together, form a team, identify key questions, and make progress with a tangible project. AO Spine is in a unique position to accomplish this because it provides a well-recognized platform for research, education, and mentorship.
Why should other experts join the community? We really need multidisciplinary input. The question of physiotherapy, in particular, requires bringing together all stakeholders involved in the treatment of DCM.”
The Perioperative Rehabilitation Incubator is now chaired by Professor Chad Cook.


None of this would have been possible without the support of AO Spine. We wholeheartedly thank them for kickstarting this important initiative. Management of these incubators has now transferred to as a key component of its RECODE-DCM think tank.

If you would like to join an incubator, please contact