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Breakthrough Cell-Therapy Shows Promise for Degenerative Disc Disease Sufferers

Back pain affects all of us at one time or another in our lives.  One of the most common causes of back pain is degeneration of the lumbar discs.  As the disc ages, the shock-absorbing nucleus pulposus (inner disc) loses water and the disc cells begin to die off.  To date, no therapy exists that can regenerate the nucleus or reverse this degenerative process, leaving surgical intervention as the only option. In the United States alone, more than 400,000 lumbar discectomies and 500,000 spinal fusions are performed each year for symptoms related to lumbar disc degeneration. Both procedures also have significant drawbacks, such as restricted mobility and continued degeneration of the affected discs.

Using NuQu (ISTO Technologies, Inc) to restore a damaged disc could save the disc and prevent further degeneration. NuQu is composed of culture-expanded juvenile cartilage cells (stem cells) in a protein-based carrier. These cells have been proven to have far greater regenerative potential than adult cartilage-forming cells based upon preliminary investigations.

After evaluating hundreds of patients for the FDA trial comparing these cartilage forming stem cells to a saline placebo, the spinal experts at The Virginia Spine Institute were able to enroll 5 patients in the study.  Although the early results have been promising, the evaluation will not be complete until a full year passes after the injection.

Although NuQu is an early-stage, cell-based therapy aimed at treating the cause of back pain associated with degenerating discs, we remain optimistic that it has the potential to cure this disease. This pioneering cell therapy, currently under investigation by our physicians, shows promise in restoring the structure of degenerating discs and alleviating pain after other non-operative treatments have failed and before surgery even becomes a consideration.

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