In Memorium Greg Lutz: We Lost Another Great One This Week

This has been a tough few months for the Interventional Orthobiologics field. First, we lost Arnie Caplan, and now, this week, Greg Lutz. I knew Greg well, as he was one of my favorite people in this field. Let me share with you the Greg Lutz I knew.

Meeting Greg

I first met Greg around the time he invited me to speak at HSS in 2013. I was warmly received by Greg and the PMR department at HSS and got to see firsthand what he was doing with PRP and discs. I was amazed that he was already performing an RCT. While lecturing about our then 8-year experience with culture-expanded MSCs in front of orthopedic surgeons was a bit like being thrown into the proverbial lion’s den; the funniest moment was when one of Greg’s raised-in-NYC colleagues with a thick accent told me that I had a western cowboy accent. Maybe that’s because after living in Colorado for a while, I had picked up the state greeting of “Howdy.”

I was amazed by Greg. He was the calmest human I had ever met. Over dinner, I learned that he and his brother Chris (also a physician at HSS) had a long medical heritage. Their dad was a psychiatrist who used to practice out of the back of their family home and a mountain climber who had died doing what he loved: climbing.

Also, Greg loved Princeton, New Jersey, where he had a second home he used to escape the city and actually commuted from there to Manhattan for work. Greg was smart, sharp, and always quick to laugh about life, the universe, and everything.

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Through the Years

As time went on, I counted Greg among my friends in the field. He was always easy to talk to, and maybe because his dad was a psychiatrist, he always kept a 30,000-foot view about him. Meaning that he rarely concerned himself with getting into the weeds of the immediate obstacles in his path but could easily climb above that to see the long-term and best path forward. As a result, Greg was someone I would call for advice.

As we would get dinner at various conferences, I would hear about how proud he was of his kids. I remember one conference where he told me he was beginning to cut back a bit. Also, now that he and his wife were empty nesters, they often traveled to see their kids at college. So even though Greg was younger than me, he was already beginning to smell the roses long before I would allow myself that same privilege.

Greg’s Life Work

I eventually learned that Greg had been chief of PMR at HSS and held the title of an Emeritus at that institution (which he always seemed far too young to hold!) This is from his memorial on the HSS website:

“Dr. Lutz became the first Physiatrist-in-Chief at HSS in 1997 and was a Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. Under his 15-year leadership, the department grew to become one of the largest outpatient musculoskeletal practices in the world. He also established the Spine & Sports Medicine Fellowship, mentored more than 60 fellows, and was the Founder and Medical Director of the Regenerative SportsCare Institute (RSI) in Manhattan.”

“Dr. Lutz earned his undergraduate degree at Drew University magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and his medical degree from Georgetown. He pursued his specialty training in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic before coming to HSS in 1992 to complete his training through an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Fellowship.”

Greg’s 2016 disc PRP paper was one of the pillars on which this field is built (1). While orthobiologics RCTs are common now, Greg’s paper was an outlier when published. It allowed many of us who had been using PRP for quite some time to have some proof that the results we observed in the spine weren’t just a figment of our imaginations. Greg and I also eventually collaborated on research to reduce the risk of discitis. That culminated in me sending one of our Regenexx scientists to work with his team at Orthobond in New Jersey to help create various PRP types and strengths, which we tested with various antibiotics against p. acnes. This work led to a series of papers that Greg later published. (2)

Greg remained passionate about research and even founded a treatment registry with one of his former students at HSS. He would frequently present information from this registry concerning the dosing of PRP and intervertebral disc infection rates in different types of orthobiologics. Finally, Greg recently wrote a consumer book to help spread the word about intradiscal orthobiologics. 

Greg was also a skilled entrepreneur. He began a company called Orthobond, which uses an antimicrobial coating on implanted devices and prostheses. We would often muse that, like Regenexx for me, Orthobond was growing and maturing like one of his kids.

Way Too Young

I recall many of my much older friends talking about a time in their lives when they went to more funerals than weddings. However, Greg was not an old guy but in the prime of his working and productive years. That point at which you have achieved mastery in your work life, your personal life is on cruise control, your kids are happy and doing well on their own, and you achieve your greatest successes while basking in the glow of all you have created. We’ll never know what else Greg had in store for all of us, but I bet there was lots more greatness he had to give.

The upshot? I will miss my friend Greg, whom I deeply respected as a great contributor to Orthobiologics. Greg was a pillar in this field and a rock-solid personality. He helped build countless careers by building everyone up, from fellows to students, and leaves a legacy we all should admire. I know that for his wife, kids, and brother Chris, he also leaves a gaping hole in their lives. They should all take solace in the fact that Greg left his world better than he found it.



(1) Tuakli-Wosornu YA, Terry A, Boachie-Adjei K, Harrison JR, Gribbin CK, LaSalle EE, Nguyen JT, Solomon JL, Lutz GE. Lumbar Intradiskal Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections: A Prospective, Double-Blind, Randomized Controlled Study. PM R. 2016 Jan;8(1):1-10; quiz 10. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2015.08.010. Epub 2015 Aug 24. PMID: 26314234.

(2) Prysak MH, Lutz CG, Zukofsky TA, Katz JM, Everts PA, Lutz GE. Optimizing the safety of intradiscal platelet-rich plasma: an in vitro study with Cutibacterium acnes. Regen Med. 2019 Oct;14(10):955-967. doi: 10.2217/rme-2019-0098. Epub 2019 Oct 7. PMID: 31587600.

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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