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Stem Cell Repair and Back Problems

By: Suzanne Elvidge BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 9 May 2018 |
 
Back Pain Stem Cells Intervertebral

For the estimated 10 million Britons suffering from lower back pain every year, news of a potential permanent cure could bring hope for a pain-free future. Researchers at Manchester University’s Division of Regenerative Medicine are currently running clinical trials in people with back pain to test a revolutionary treatment that could repair damaged intervertebral discs. The treatment uses stem cells (the master cells from which all the body’s specialist cells are created) taken from the sufferer’s own bone marrow to repair the damage.

Off Work and in the Waiting Room

Lower back pain is a common problem in the United Kingdom and worldwide, and it is estimated that 80% of adults in the UK will suffer back pain at least once at some point in their life. In fact, one in five people will visit their doctor in any given year because of back pain from a range of different causes. Around 4.9 million work days are lost through back-related pain every year and treatments for back problems, including pain killers, physiotherapy and surgery, cost the NHS around £481 million a year. Added to this is the cost of over-the-counter remedies and alternative treatments. This is a huge amount of money for treatments that, as back pain sufferers will know, usually only tackle the symptoms and provide temporary relief from what can often be crippling pain that disrupts work, social and family life.

Cause and Effect

The spine is very complex. It is made up of 24 small bones called the vertebrae. In between each pair of vertebrae lies an intervertebral disc. These spongy discs act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to be flexible. Structured a bit like small round cushions, the discs have a flexible and strong outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a squashy interior gel called the nucleus polposus. When a disc is damaged, by trauma, disease or just ongoing wear-and-tear, the annulus fibrosus may split allowing some or all of the gel to squeeze out (often called a slipped, herniated or ruptured disc). The resulting pain and disability can be short-lived (acute) or long term (chronic). As intervertebral discs cannot repair themselves, an acute back problem can often become a chronic one when it is not possible to tackle the cause of the problem.

A Complete Cure?

The revolutionary new treatment based on stem cells, pioneered by Dr Stephen Richardson at Manchester University, may turn out to offer a permanent cure for back pain related to damaged intervertebral discs. For over five years, and backed with funding from the Arthritis Research Campaign, he and his colleagues at the Division of Regenerative Medicine have been developing a way of using cells from the body to regenerate the nucleus polposus in the damaged intervertebral discs. The treatment involves taking mesenchymal cells, a type of stem cell, from the sufferer’s own bone marrow and growing them in a culture. Using a patented method of differentiation (when an unspecialised cell becomes specialised) the mesenchymal cells can develop into nucleus polposus cells. These new specialist cells are then embedded into a completely natural collagen gel, specially developed for the purpose by the German biotechnology company, Arthrokinetics. Using an arthroscope – a tube through which a camera and surgical instruments can be inserted – the gel containing the new cells is inserted between the affected vertebrae where the cells can then grow and multiply, creating a new nucleus polposus.

This breakthrough treatment is exciting for back pain sufferers, where the pain is caused by damaged intervertebral discs. The cure could well be permanent, allowing a return to a pain-free life. Because this form of surgery causes minimal damage to the skin and other tissues, recovery can be very quick with the chance of going home on the same or the next day. Surgery that uses implants often causes concern because there is a risk that the implant could be rejected by the body’s immune system. In this case, though, the cells are taken from the sufferers own body and so are instantly recognised and accepted. The same goes for the completely natural collagen gel.

Hope for the Future

It may only be a matter of years before intervertebral disc damage can be permanently repaired using Dr Stephen Richardson’s pioneering disc-repair treatment. The first stages of research and testing are now completed and clinical trials on humans are underway. This means that there is light at the end of the tunnel for sufferers of lower back pain, not to mention huge savings for the United Kingdom’s beleaguered NHS.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Hi I have annulus bulges at c4 -c5- c6 I have disc dessication,bulges , minmally prominent of the spinal cord t6-t7 t7-t8 mid thoracic I have bulges on multiple levels of the lower thoracic I have bulges , tropism of the facet joints , annular tear , facet joint disease , My spine is a complete mess and no surgeon will touch my spine ..i am 45 year old and feel 80 with all the pain/numbness/weakness/pins and needles all through my body My bladder and bowels are suffering now ...
Salsybar - 9-May-18 @ 11:19 PM
What are the 2 basic functions of the spine?
Rubi - 24-Mar-18 @ 6:11 AM
please need help to finish my homework
Rubi - 24-Mar-18 @ 6:06 AM
Rich - Your Question:
Hi, I have L4L5 Annular Tear, with leg/foot pain. I would be very interested in taking part, the USA have been doing these Injections for a few years now with amazing results!, anyone guide me in the right direction, also anyone had an injection??, cheers

Our Response:
Have you asked your GP? They may be able to tell you whether NHS offers it and under what circumstances, or whether you can find it privately.
BackPainExpert - 28-Feb-18 @ 12:19 PM
Hi, I have L4L5 Annular Tear, with leg/foot pain. I would be very interested in taking part, the USA have been doing these Injections for a few years now with amazing results!, anyone guide me in the right direction, also anyone had an injection??, cheers
Rich - 26-Feb-18 @ 10:54 PM
Dear all can you please let me know where are we with this new treatment from Arthrokinetics? Are we already in phase 3? Is there a forecast for final approval? Thanks a lot and regards Marco
Marco Caravati - 25-Jan-18 @ 8:12 PM
Daz - Your Question:
Hello I would be very keen to do clinical trials on my degenerative disc which has been causing me terrible pain then new stem cell clinical trials for this seem to be the answer how do I go about applying for this id be very grateful for more info thanking you darren cliff

Our Response:
We don't arrange anything like this unfortunately. We only provide information related to back pain. You'd be advised to either contact universities directly or see whether your GP/Consultant is able to recommend you for one of these trials.
BackPainExpert - 11-Sep-15 @ 10:39 AM
Hello i would be very keen to do clinical trials on my degenerative disc which has been causing me terrible pain then new stem cell clinical trials for this seem to be the answer how do i go about applying for this id be very grateful for more info thanking you darren cliff
Daz - 10-Sep-15 @ 5:45 AM
I am 44 and have had 3 microdiscectomies. I have sciatica, leg numbness, constant pain/discomfort and have no real quality of life. I would also be interested in taking part in an NHS trial. How do I find details please?
Pam - 19-Jul-15 @ 11:04 PM
Hello, My story is quiet simple. I have had 2 micro-discectomy operations and 2 spinal injections over 3 years. I am 53 with a hope for at least another 30 years before the rest of my body packs in. I have seen no real improvement over time and wonder if this stem cell technology is available via a trial via the NHS etc. How do I get involved? Many Thanks David
David - 17-Jul-15 @ 3:46 PM
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