Back Pain A Health Crisis
Most of the options available to people with lower back pain issues merely help to control symptoms. But researchers in America are now testing patients’ own stem cells as possible ultimate remedy to the root cause of the problem.
There has been an increasing focus on stem cells for the treatment of a variety of conditions over the past years, especially the most recent. These cells are regarded for the ability to adapt to whatever part of the body they are introduced to.
Research – mostly involving the use of lab animals – had indicated previously that stem cells offer great potential for more effective treatment of back pain. They have been observed capable of restoring discs between vertebrae in the spinal column.
Scientists believe it can restore the ability of spinal discs to serve as a cushion between bones in the spine. This ability usually declines as a result of the wear and tear that people experience as they grow older.
Researchers are now carrying out a clinical trial in the U.S. state of Ohio with a view to assessing the potential of stem cells to cure low back pain.
Current treatments, not the perfect solutions
Pain resulting from degeneration of any section of the spine is something anyone would want to do away with completely. Sadly, available treatments hardly ever bring permanent relief.
Pain relievers are the most common treatment many people resort to – there is even a problem of excessive usage of these. Other first-line treatment options include steroid injections for fighting inflammation. There is also physiotherapy for preventing mobility issues.
Apparently, most of the existing treatments only focus on symptoms rather than the root cause. This is why their effects are usually temporary.
Spinal discs contain a jelly-like substance that cushions vertebrae and supports easy mobility. Disks can lose some fluid as a result of different factors, including genetics or aging. This can cause bones in the spine to inch closer and the discs may bulge out, leading to pain and movement issues.
While surgical procedures may be more effective for pain control, they can bring about other problems, including reduced mobility.
Battling back pain with stem cells
Scientists think that injecting stem cells may help to restore damaged or degenerated spinal discs. This is potentially a great way of fighting inflammation and pain without any need for a more invasive procedure.
This is what researchers at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center are currently trying to investigate in a trial involving 24 people. They hope stem cells can be a more effective means of dealing with the root cause of the problem.
“The most significant unmet need is a therapy that cannot only improve the patient’s pain and function but has the ability to reverse, halt or slow disease progression,” the scientists said.
The clinical trial will focus on one of the two main types of adult stem cells that are called mesenchymal cells. Tissues and organs in the body, including cartilage and bones, are usually made of these. The cells can be obtained from any tissue.
Researchers will make use of stem cells that come from the bone marrow of patients. This will be injected into discs that are identified as being responsible for pain.
The stem cells are expected to boost the water content of spinal discs after injection. This improves the ability of the cushiony structures to keep bones from coming together. This helps to control inflammation and pain.
Subjects in the trial will get injections of stem cells or a placebo. They will undergo quality-of-life and MRI tests prior to treatment and at specific intervals afterward – for up to a year – to assess efficacy.