Millions of chronic back pain sufferers could soon find relief from a new gel invented by British scientists that repairs damaged spinal discs, according to a published study in the journal Soft Matter.
At some point in their lives, at least 80 percent of people are affected by back pain, which is most frequently caused by degeneration of the intervertebral disc. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and is one of the main reasons why people miss work in the United States.
Professor Tony Freemont, Head of Research in the School of Biomedicine at the University of Manchester, and co-author on the paper, says, “Degeneration of the intervertebral disc results in chronic back pain which costs the country billions of pounds per annum and causes untold misery for sufferers and their families.”
Now scientists, after 25 years of research, have developed a biomaterial implant which could treat chronic back pain, the study says.
Microscopic sponge-like particles which inflate and gel together to repair worn-away discs may be the answer back pain sufferers are looking for.
Lead researcher Dr. Brian Saunders of the School of Materials and his team have successfully linked the microgel particles together to form injectable elastic gels that are capable of sustaining large permanent changes in shape without breaking and which have long-term durability required for an implanted device, the study says.
“Our team has made a breakthrough through innovative materials design that brings the prospect of an injectable gel for treating degeneration of the intervertebral disc a step closer,” Dr. Saunders says.
Professor Freemont adds, “We have been working for 25 years to identify methods for treating degeneration of the intervertebral disc.”
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