By Pat Anson, Editor
An Australian biotech company is testing a new stem cell treatment for degenerative disc disease.
Mesoblast is enrolling patients in a Phase 3 study to see if a single injection of mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs) taken from the bone marrow of healthy donors can relieve back pain and improve the mobility of patients with disc disease, which occurs when the cushions between vertebrae wear down because of aging, genetics or injuries.
Millions of MPCs are injected directly into the damaged disc in an outpatient procedure. Previous studies have found that MPCs have anti-inflammatory effects, and help strengthen and improve the stability of damaged discs. The treatment is being developed for patients who have exhausted other options for their back pain.
“Patients with this level of degeneration often try multiple treatments for relief, including pain medication, massage, physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture,” says lead investigator Kee Kim, MD, professor of neurological surgery and co-director of the University of California Davis Spine Center.
“For some of them, nothing seems to help, and we end up operating to remove the degenerated disc and fuse the spine to eliminate motion that may cause increased pain. We want to know if a single dose of this investigational therapy can offer relief without the need for surgery.”
UC Davis is one of 28 sites in the United States and Australia involved in the study. Participants with degenerative disc disease in the lower back will receive injections of either MPCs, MPCs with a carrier material (hyaluronic acid) or a placebo. Although the MPCs are collected from donors, tissue matching is not necessary.
Following treatment, participants will be evaluated by researchers six times over the course of a year. They also will be given the option to participate in an extension of the study to track their progress for three years after the initial injection.
Previous studies have found that MPCs have anti-inflammatory effects, and help strengthen and improve the stability of damaged discs. Researchers caution, however, that the treatment may not be effective for everyone.
“Many patients with back pain will not benefit from this stem cell therapy and may still require surgery,” Kim said. “For some patients, it could offer improvement. For these patients, it is worth exploring this alternative.”
You can find out more about the study by clicking here.