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NIH Funds Disc Degeneration Diagnostics Research

Jan 27, 2015

Researchers are working on a non-invasive technique for detecting which disc is degenerating in patients.

Disc degeneration is a progressive condition that causes debilitating pain in the lower back. It’s a widespread issues that affects more than 70 million people in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Identifying the precise disc that’s causing such discomfort are generally painful themselves and involve injecting non-toxic dyes into the spine. So researchers from the various departments from Cedars-Sinai are coming together to develop a non-invasive technique to diagnose it with help from the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH awarded a grant to the interdisciplinary research group for the project, which will involve developing the very first imaging technique that will identify specific biomarkers. Biomarkers are substances in the body that occur when someone has a health condition. The technique that these researchers will develop will aim at the biomarkers that signify a degenerative disc.

“The goal of our institute is to develop and apply novel imaging techniques that translate to clinical significance,” Dr. Debiao Li, a leader in the study, said in a statement. “This imaging technology may allow us to do just this. By mapping a patient’s lower spinal region, we can identify the discs causing discomfort, which allows physicians to then treat accordingly.”

With this more efficient, non-invasive diagnostic technique, health care professionals can more quickly find the correct location and begin the process of disc regenerative therapy. In fact, when physicians understand where the source of pain is, they are more capable of determining what type of treatment is right for the patient’s specific situation. Following this study, the group hopes to delve into the world of stem-cell therapy and its use in disc regeneration.

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