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Introduction

Low Back Pain

Chronic low back pain (LBP) is one of the leading musculoskeletal disorders associated with years lived with disability and  generates annual healthcare costs over $100 billion in the US alone. According to the National Institute of Health(NIH),  the magnitude of burden from LBP has grown worse in recent years. In 1990, a study ranking the most burdensome conditions in the U.S. in terms of mortality or poor health as a result of disease put LBP in sixth place; in 2010, LBP jumped to third place with only ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ranking higher.

Intervertebral Disk Degeneration

Lumbar intervertebral discs (IVD) have been implicated in pathogenesis of LBP. The onset of IVD degeneration can be caused by genetic precursors, acute injury, occupational factors or simply age. Painful disc disease is characterized by a loss of structural integrity and function, a decrease in cellularity and high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. However, current treatment strategies are highly invasive with poor surgical outcomes and fail to target the underlying disease pathology and aberrant cell biology.

Spinal Therapeutics Lab Research

STL strives to further IVD research in order to develop diagnostic tools and minimally invasive treatments of IVD degeneration. The identification of disc degeneration and pain biomarkers is crucial for the diagnosis of LBP source. Minimally invasive treatments allow better patient outcomes through faster recovery, shorter hospitalition periods and  most importantly reduced damage to adjoining tissue.

Investigation is done through the development of in vitro 2D and 3D models that allow the control of the biochemical, mechanical and matrix microenvironment. These models help the testing of established hypotheses and lead to the development of new questions that fuel research.