Scientists are working on repairing damaged intervertebral discs

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of the world’s population will be affected by backache in their lifetime

Researchers at the French national research institute INSERM have been able to transform adipose stem cells into cells which may be able to replace damaged intervertebral discs. Their study has been published in the journal Cell.

40% of back pain is said to be due to an irreversible deterioration of the intervertebral discs which form "cushions" between the vertebrae and are no longer able to act as shock absorbers.

Our spinal column is constantly being put under pressure by lifting heavy loads, sports, repetitive movements, twisting, etc.

Over time, the discs in our spinal column can become worn and unable to act as shock absorbers. While these conditions develop gradually, they can quickly result in pain in the area where the discs are damaged.

Researchers at the French national research institute INSERM, headed by Jérôme Guicheux, were able to transform adipose stem cells into cells which may be capable of replacing damaged discs.

In only 28 days, the researchers were able to generate cells in vitro that are very similar to the nucleus pulposus cells in the intervertebral discs, by combining two growth factors called TGFß and GDF5. Jérôme Guicheux, the study's main author, said that the protocol proved to be a success irrespective of the patients' age and weight.

For the moment, these cells are unable to survive when reimplanted into the damaged intervertebral disc, but this regenerative medicine study enables the researchers to move on to the next pre-clinical trial step, namely to test the therapeutic efficacy of these new cells in a relevant animal model of disc degeneration.

This discovery offers hope to the millions of people affected by backache, a condition which the World Health Organization says will affect 80% of the world's population during their lifetime.

Link to the study: