Back pain is a common problem that affects nearly 40% of adults. Many people suffer from low back pain due to degenerating disks in their spine, but until now, scientists couldn’t explain why these disks become painful.
In a recent study conducted by researchers at Cedars-Sinai, exciting breakthroughs have emerged, shedding light on the cause of this pain and potentially paving the way for better treatments.
The spine is made up of bones that are cushioned by jelly-filled spacers known as intervertebral disks. Over time, these disks can deteriorate due to factors such as aging, overuse, or injury.
However, the degeneration of these disks doesn’t always lead to pain because the inner layers of the disks don’t contain nerve endings. But sometimes, as the disks degenerate, nerve endings from nearby tissues invade the disks, causing pain.
Researchers, led by Dr. Dmitriy Sheyn, a scientist at Cedars-Sinai, have identified a specific type of cell that may be responsible for the onset of this pain.
They compared cells from patients with pain-free degenerated disks to those from patients with disk-related low back pain.
What they discovered was that individuals experiencing low back pain had a higher number of a particular type of cell in their degenerated disks.
This breakthrough in understanding disk-related back pain is a significant step towards finding non-surgical treatments.
Dr. Hyun Bae, a professor at Cedars-Sinai, expressed optimism, stating that this discovery could open doors to innovative therapies that could revolutionize orthopedic treatments and provide hope to millions worldwide.
To delve deeper into this research, scientists conducted experiments in a laboratory setting.
They exposed healthy cells to conditions that mimic disk degeneration, including inflammation, acidity, tension, compression, low glucose, and low oxygen. Remarkably, they were able to transform these healthy cells into the pain-associated subtype.
In another experiment, researchers used a specialized two-chamber laboratory chip. In one chamber, they grew the pain-associated cells, and in the other, they introduced pain-signaling neurons derived from stem cells.
When the pain-associated cells were present, the neurons extended axons towards them. However, when healthy cells were in the chamber, the neurons did not send out axons.
While it’s unclear whether the pain-associated cells attracted the neurons or the healthy cells repelled them, there was a noticeable difference between the two types of cells.
This finding suggests that the pain-associated cells may play a crucial role in the development of back pain.
Based on this new knowledge, future treatments may focus on reprogramming the pain-associated cells into healthy ones or introducing healthy cells into painful disks to outnumber the pain-associated cells.
Dr. Clive Svendsen, the executive director of the Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute at Cedars-Sinai, suggests that targeting the problematic cell subtype or supplementing the healthy cell subtype could offer promising strategies for treating low back pain.
In conclusion, this groundbreaking research has uncovered vital insights into the root causes of low back pain associated with degenerating disks.
By understanding the role of specific cells in this process, scientists are now closer to developing targeted therapies that could alleviate the suffering of millions of people worldwide.
This discovery offers hope for a future where effective treatments for back pain are within reach.
If you care about pain, please read studies about why long COVID can cause pain, and common native American plant may help reduce diarrhea and pain.
For more information about pain, please see recent studies about why people with red hair respond differently to pain than others, and results showing this drug may relieve painful ‘long covid’ symptoms.
The research findings can be found in Science Translational Medicine.
Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.