Low back pain (LBP) 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. The majority of the cases of LBP are due to degeneration of the intervertebral disc (IVD), the soft tissue which separates the vertebrae in the spine and protects them from damage as it is the flexibility of this tissue that allows movement of the (bending, twisting etc).
The IVD is comprised of a central gel-like tissue (nucleus pulposus or NP), surrounded by a fibrous ring of tissue (annulus fibrosus or AF). Nucleus pulposus is the jelly-like substance in the middle of the spinal disc which consists of chondrocytes (cartilage cells), collagen fibrils, and proteoglycan aggrecans that have hyaluronic long chains which attract water. It acts as a shock absorber, absorbing the impact of the body's daily activities and keeping the two vertebrae separated. Over time the NP becomes dry and fibrous, no longer able to maintain the height of the IVD and cannot support the weight of the body, which means the disc becomes damaged and dysfunctional and this is the source of the LBP in many people.
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 level together to remove the pain, although this also stops movement at that disc level. None of these options is ideal as they only treat the symptoms, not the cause which is IVD degeneration and so are of limited long-term success.
For patient with lower back pain due to degenerative IVD, DiscocellTM may improve the pain by regenerating new nucleus pulposus or NP cells that are similar to cartilage cells. These new cells are allowed to mature inside the IVD and differentiate into mature NP cells that help to maintain the health and height of the IVD. DiscocellTM treatment therefore emulates the natural healing process of IVD degeneration and diseases with stem cells derived from one's own bone marrow.
There are currently no published clinical data on the effectiveness of this new technique. However animal models of IVD disease have shown that injecting cells similar to DiscocellTM directly into the disc, the height of the IVD is maintained or increased. Patients likely to benefit the most are those with at least moderately severe or severe IVD disease that cause much disability, loss of mobility and pain with reduced quality of life. For these patients, the need for advanced surgical intervention involving can be deferred or even obviated.