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Researchers develop injectable gel that can repair cracks and tears in spinal discs relieving pain

Cure back pain? Researchers develop injectable gel that can repair tears and tears in intervertebral discs and relieve pain

  • Scientists at Clinical Radiology of Oklahoma said the treatment showed promise after it reduced lower back pain in 20 people ages 20 to 69
  • But they said more research was needed before it could be rolled out further
  • Participants suffered from degenerative disc disease, the leading cause of low back pain
  • Current gels require surgery to implant and can fall into place
  • But this gel only needs an injection to put it in place in the back and relieve pain

Researchers have found that an injectable gel that repairs cracked and ruptured intervertebral discs may help relieve lower back pain.

Scientists at the Clinical Radiology of Oklahoma said the treatment showed promise after it reduced pain in 20 people ages 20 to 69 who had degenerative disc disease, a condition in which discs separating the vertebrae become worn.

But they added that it was necessary to wait for the results of a pilot study in the US and Canada before the gel — called Hydrafil — could be rolled out more widely.

It is estimated that approximately 65 million Americans suffer from back pain each year, with degenerative disc disease being the leading cause.

Current treatments focus on ‘conservative’ methods, including rest, physical therapy and back braces. Current gel treatments to relieve the condition require surgical insertion and can fall into place, unlike the new treatment which only requires an injection.

The gel can help relieve lower back pain by hardening the tears and cracks that form in discs over time (stock image)

The gel can help relieve lower back pain by hardening the tears and cracks that form in discs over time (stock image)

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Degenerative disc disease is a form of arthritis and the most common cause of low back pain.

It happens when discs that separate the vertebrae in the spider become worn and damaged.

This leads vertebrae to move closer together, to which they respond by making spurs — or bony growths. When these nerves begin to pinch in the back, it causes pain.

Treatment options for those suffering from the condition include conservative methods such as rest and physical therapy. Surgery to place implants may also be offered.

About 65 million Americans suffer from back pain every year.

Source: Johns Hopkins

In the study — unveiled this week at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s annual scientific meeting — researchers said they recruited 20 people from Colombia with chronic low back pain for the study.

Each had previously tried to relieve their pain using ‘conservative measures’, but experienced only mild respite.

The specialist gel was heated to 65°C before being injected directly into their discs — which separate the bony vertebrae — in the lower back.

It then cooled to the patient’s body temperature and solidified into an implant to support discs in the back.

Scientists said the gel — made of plastic — cools quickly after injection and no damage to the surrounding tissue has been observed or recorded so far.

Six months later, they all reported a drop in back pain on a scale to 10 — the highest — from seven before treatment to just two now.

They also reported an improvement in their ability to perform physical activities.

Hydrafil will now be sped into a second trial, the scientists said, to confirm whether it is a “promising treatment” for the condition.

dr. Douglas Beall, the radiologist who led the study, said: ‘If these findings are confirmed in further research, this procedure could be a promising treatment for chronic low back pain in those who have not found adequate relief from conservative care.

“The gel is easy to administer, does not require open surgery and is an easy procedure for the patient.”

He added: ‘We really don’t have any good treatments for degenerative disc disease other than conservative care.

“Surgery is statistically no more effective than conservative care and could potentially make things worse. And existing hydrogels are inserted through an incision as a soft solid, which can fall into place if you’re not very good at placing them.’

Hydrafil received a “breakthrough device” designation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020 that allows it to be put into trials.

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