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Back pain: Experimental treatment uses stem cells to regenerate discs

July 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Chronic back pain affects nearly 1 in 3 in the U.S. Unfortunately, treatment options are limited and often surgery is done as a last resort. But an experimental new treatment doesn't involve going under the knife.

Bobby Sydnor and his band have something to sing about. Sydnor may have found the answer to his debilitating pain from a motorcycle accident 40 years ago that nearly crushed his spine, leaving him with three degenerative discs.

"It's just excruciating; it is. I remember sometimes crawling to the bathroom," said Sydnor.

But thanks to a cutting edge therapy, Sydnor is finally getting some relief without surgery.

"It really has the potential to change the disease state instead of just treating the symptoms," said Dr. Tory L. McJunkin, principal investigator at Arizona Pain Specialists.

McJunkin is involved in a multi-center clinical trial that's using stem cells to regenerate discs in the spine.

"They have the ability to change and to re-grow that tissue until it's a normal tissue," said McJunkin.

Preclinical studies on sheep showed their discs were regenerated.

"The treated disc looks exactly the same. You can't tell a difference at all and the untreated disc is very degenerative, very black," said McJunkin.

Full human trial results will not be available until later this year, but in early data, 71 percent of patients who received a low dose of stem cells showed a significant reduction in low back pain and improvement in function, compared with 20 percent of patients in the control group.

Now, two years into the study, Sydnor says he's definitely feeling a difference and can't wait for what's next.


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