STEM CELL THERAPY FOR BACK PAIN
Although early stem cell research used stem cells harvested from umbilical cords, today’s research in the U.S. uses cells derived from other sources, including bone marrow, blood and adipose (fat) tissue. Most research focuses on using a patient’s own stem cells (autologous stem cells). Adult stem cells used in back pain studies may also be referred to as mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs. Here in Mexico we concentrate on both donor Mesenchymal Stem Cells & Adult Stem cells from patients own stem cell line.
Mesenchymal Stem cells are valued in medical research because they have the ability to differentiate, or turn into, many other types of cells. Unlike a bone cell (chondrocyte), which can only be a bone cell, a stem cell can be prompted to turn into many types of cells. When injected into an area where damage has occurred due to disease or injury, stem cells can take on the characteristics of the damaged cells, replacing and replenishing them to heal the area. Stem cells can also prompt changes in local cells through cell-to-cell communication called paracrine signaling.
In addition, stem cells can promote the development of new blood vessels to increase circulation in damaged tissues, significantly reduce inflammation which can impede healing, and reboot faulty immune systems, which is especially important in the treatment of immune-mediated diseases.
In back pain, stem cells have been used to help support grafts, to reduce the effects of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and to treat degenerative changes that can affect the discs and the spinal canal.
Stem cells are of special interest in the treatment of low back pain, the most common type of back pain and a major cause of debility in the U.S. and worldwide. In one study of low back pain, 24 patients were injected with concentrations of their own stem cells derived from bone marrow to evaluate the effects on their symptoms, which had persisted for as long as 12 years in some patients. All of the patients showed some evidence of age-related disc degeneration. During the procedure, the stem cell concentrate was re-injected into the space surrounding the damaged disc. Of the original 24 patients, 12 were followed for 30 months to determine the efficacy of the approach over time. After two years, five patients reported their pain was better and three reported no improvement in their symptoms. The remaining four had not reached the endpoint of the follow-up period.
Another group of researchers from the Emory Orthopedics and Spine Center recently demonstrated that a single injection of stem cells can lower back pain caused by degenerative discs. The study included 100 patients as part of a Phase II international clinical trial. Mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs) derived from the bone marrow were used for this study, and were found to lower back pain by 50% for up to 12 months. W. Jeremy Beckworth, MD, assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehab Medicine, was part of the trial. “These are very exciting findings,” explains Beckworth. “The results provide significant hope for a condition that has been very tough to treat. Discogenic low back pain, a painful degenerative disc, is the most common cause of chronic low back pain.”