Small sponge like particles may come to the therapeutic aid of chronic lower back pain. This was announced by Brian Saunders from The School of Materials and Professor Tony Freemont from The Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences.
The tiny gel particles discovered by the team are reported to swell and stiffen when injected into the damaged region. This study was performed on the bovine intervertebral disc. When the researchers injected the microgels into the injured intervertebral disc, it was found that the latter got back their mechanical properties.
This result could be extrapolated to humans also where they can get back their mobility and flexibility after getting spinal injections. This process is said to be better when compared to spinal fusions which is a surgical procedure where the recovery period is long and there is a loss of mobility at the fused and adjacent discs.
When intervertebral discs get deteriorated, it causes holes in the load-bearing tissue of the disc. Subsequently disc height gets reduced resulting in unbearable pain. The microgel particles designed by the research team are like 'smart sponges' when dispersed in water. It has a low pH in water and therefore a low acidity. Hence it can be injected through a syringe. Once when it enters the body it changes to stiff gel due to absorption of water by the particles.
According to the lead authors of this study, there is an urgent need to find a cure for damaged intervertebral discs. They also felt that an extensive study should be undertaken on this subject which might look to biodegradable microgels that will promote regeneration of intervertebral disc.