Human Dermal Fibroblasts as a Potential Future Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

What are fibroblasts? For those who may not be familiar, fibroblasts play an important role in wound healing; They are cells that produce proteins and other framework that give tissues structural integrity. A regenerative medicine research company in Texas known as SpinalCyte is currently conducting a clinical study to investigate whether fibroblasts derived from human skin tissue­—Human Dermal Fibroblasts (HDFs)— can be an effective treatment for patients suffering from back pain due to degenerative disc disease(DDD).

SpinalCyte recently released some preliminary data from their ongoing clinical trial with promising results. They analyzed the Magnetic Resonance Images (MRIs) of eighteen DDD patients who had intradiscal HDF injections (injected into spinal discs) and found that six months following treatment, MRI images confirmed a significant improvement in interspinal disc height. Eighty-three percent of patients treated with HDF injections had increased disc height or no change at all to one or more injected discs compared to only sixty-six percent of patients in the control group. You may be wondering what the clinical significance of “no change at all” is, and to answer that, no change in disc height implies that the disease progression has been halted, whereas a continued decrease in disc height would denote that the DDD is progressing and an increase in disc height would suggest that the disease process is reversing. Thus, the disc height improvement demonstrated in the preliminary data results suggests that SpinalCyte’s new HDF cell therapy may be stimulating a cellular-based regenerative response in spinal discs.

Evidence of reduced back pain and spinal disc improvement at six months gives reason for great optimism. As research continues and investigators collect more data, we can hope for a continued positive response with a larger sample size to confirm these preliminary findings. Moreover, if this treatment proves to be a viable commercial option for patients suffering from chronic back pain due to DDD, the clinical impact could be significant and potentially decrease the need for pain medication and hence, reduce the use of opioids. Further research will be needed to confirm and validate any results found in this study, however the initial findings are exciting and show the vast potential for future treatment options of degenerative disc disease.

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