British Scientist Uses Adult Stem Cell Research to Treat Back Pain

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Scientist Uses Adult Stem Cell Research to Treat Back Pain Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 4
, 2006

Manchester, England ( — A University of Manchester researcher has developed a treatment for lower back pain using the patient’s own stem cells, which could replace the use of strong painkillers or surgery. Those options don’t ultimate addresses the underlying cause of back pain in many patients.

Dr. Stephen Richardson, of the University’s Division of Regenerative Medicine in the School of Medicine (FMHS), has developed the treatment in collaboration with German biotechnology company Arthrokinetics and internationally renowned spinal surgeons.

Richardson is hoping to enter pre-clinical trials next year.

Low back pain affects a large proportion of the adult population at some point in their lives and in many of these cases it is persistent, eventually leading to debilitating pain.

Currently, treatments address the symptoms — mainly pain — using a combination of painkillers, physiotherapy or surgery, removing tissue to relieve the pain or fusing the vertebrae above and below the painful disc. None of these options is ideal as they only treat the symptoms, not the cause, and are of limited long-term success.

The treatment Dr. Richardson is developing uses a cell-based tissue engineering approach to regenerate the intervertebral disc (IVD) at the affected level. This is achieved through the combination of the patients’ own mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and a naturally occurring collagen gel that can be implanted through a minimally-invasive surgical technique.

MSCs are a population of progenitor cells found in the bone marrow of adults which can differentiate into many different cell types in the body.

Dr Richardson found that for several reasons he could not use cells from the IVD itself and thus spent a number of years developing a method of producing NP cells from MSCs.

"Once we have extracted the bone marrow from the patient and have purified the MSCs, they will be grown in culture and our patented method of differentiation will be applied," Richardson said in a statement.

"They will then be embedded within a gel which can be implanted back into the patient through an arthroscope," he explained.

The treatment has massive implications for the future of lower back pain treatment.