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U of U may have molecular help for those who suffer from chronic back pain

U of U may have molecular help for those who suffer from chronic back pain (Photo: Dan Rascon / KUTV)

(KUTV) The University of Utah may have a major breakthrough for the millions of people who suffer from chronic back pain.

A research team at the university, lead by bio engineering assistant professor Robby Bowles, has discovered a way to modify the genes in the affected area to reduce pain and create healthier disc.

“It’s a very big deal,” Bowles said. “These patients are desperate [for pain relief].”

With the use of CRISPR -- a new technology with a way of modifying human genetics -- Bowles is able to modify the genes in the spine through an injection directly to the affected area.

"What this system allows us to do is turn genes on and off in those cells and that allows us to stop that inflammatory signal. So it basically stops molecules that are driving that breakdown that leads to pain,” Bowles said. That also helps the disc to stay healthy and not break down. “Keeps them from progressing to a worse stage."

For Dr. Humble Finsand, who runs South Valley Spinal Care in South Jordan, working with those with back pain is an everyday occurrence.

"Eighty percent of the people are coming in for back pain,” Finsand said. “All different ages, from infants to those in their 80s."

One of those patients is Kody Pierce, 42. He’s been dealing with back pain for several years.

"There are times when it just floors me and I lay on the coach for a day or two,” Pierce said.

That’s why Finsand and Pierce both believe this kind of discovery would be a life changer for millions of people.

"Anything that could help prevent [the pain] or reverse that would be amazing,” Finsand said.

“If there was something like that it would be pretty amazing for sure,” Pierce said.

Bowles said they are working as fast as they can to get it to the public, but said they are still about ten years away from before the injection may be available.

For more information on the study vist UNews.edu/pain-in-the-neck/ .

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