Currently, it’s estimated that over 40% of adults over the age of 40 have at least one degenerative disc in their vertebrae; by age 80, the percentage afflicted with this condition is estimated to be over 80%. Characterized by erosion of the rubber-like discs between each vertebra of the spine, degenerative disc degeneration often results in chronic and debilitating back and neck pain. The condition is commonly accompanied by prolonged numbness in the arms and legs and pain that tends to radiate downward through the lower back and buttocks.
Adding to the seriousness of degenerative disc disease is the fact that chronic back pain continues to be a significant public health issue and among the leading causes of lost days of work and one of the most widely reported symptoms contributing to a diminished quality of life. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center found that the total cost of back pain (when factoring in medical costs, lost days of work, and the condition’s impact on wages) amounts to a staggering $560 to $635 billion annually.
Historically, chronic cases of degenerative disc disease required surgery. Unfortunately, surgical treatment of this condition not only demonstrated an inability to completely correct the conditions but also produced additional biomechanical problems and accelerated degeneration of nearby discs and portions of the spine.
Considering this, researchers began to investigate the potential use of autologous and allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) as options for treating degenerative disc disease.
In this review, Noriega et al. provide follow-up findings as a result of their long-term randomized controlled trial using allogeneic bone marrow-derived MSCs. As part of this trial, participants in the treatment group received an intradiscal injection of healthy allogeneic bone marrow MSCs while those in the control group received sham infiltration in the paravertebral musculature.
Outcomes of this trial were followed and recorded for one year after injection and subsequently followed up on 3.5 years afterward as part of this review.
As part of the original study and in addition to confirming the feasibility and safety of degenerative disc treatment with injection of MSCs, Noriega et al. found that patients treated with MSCs demonstrated rapid and significant improvements in algo functional indices when compared to those in the control group.
Examining outcomes nearly 3.5 years after original interventions, the authors reported no serious adverse effects of the investigation for either the treatment or control group. Findings also indicated that the improvements in both pain relief and disability improvement continued to increase in those receiving MSC injections while control patients did not show any significant healing after 3.5 years of receiving the intervention.
Of particular interest, the authors noted that patients treated with MSCs showed two distinct patterns – one subpopulation that showed a significant response to this treatment (responders) and another subpopulation that demonstrated no significant difference from patients in the control group (non-responders).
Noriega et al. also reported that observed structural changes in those receiving MSC injections occurring after year one of treatment were maintained over the period of 3.5 years while those in the control group continued to show a decrease in grading used to measure results of the trial.
The authors conclude that these long-term outcomes support the use of MSCs as a valid alternative for managing degenerative disc disease. Findings indicate that MSC injection as a treatment for degenerative disc disease provides effective and durable pain relief and objective improvements in disc degeneration.
Source: “Treatment of Degenerative Disc Disease With Allogeneic … – PubMed.” 1 Feb. 2021, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33492116/.