One-in-three people in the U.S. suffers from chronic pain. It affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. Non-invasive treatments in the past have been limited, but now stem cells could hold the key to the future of pain management.
Eight out of ten of us have back pain at some time in our lives---usually it's not a serious problem. But when it is, you can have a difficult time getting relief. Now researchers say stem cells could hold the key.
Bobby Sydnor has something to sing about. He may have found the answer to his debilitating pain from a motorcycle accident 40 years ago that nearly crushed his spine.
"It's just excruciating; it is,” he said. “I remember sometimes crawling to the bathroom."
But now thanks to a new therapy, he's finally getting some relief without surgery. He’s taking part in a clinical trial that's using stem cells to regenerate discs in the spine.
"It really has the potential to change the disease state, instead of just treating the symptoms," said Dr. Tory McJunkin, a principal investigator in the study. “They have the ability to change and regrow that tissue until it’s normal tissue.”
Earlier studies showed success with sheep.
“The treated disc looks exactly the same. You can’t tell the difference at all and the untreated disc is very degenerative, very black.”
Full human trial results will not be available until later this year, but in early data 71 percent of patients who received a low dose of stem cells showed a significant reduction in low back pain and improvement in function, compared with 20 percent of patients in the control group.
Now, two years into the study Sydnor says he's definitely feeling a difference.
The stem cells come from adult donors.
Fifteen sites across the country, including one in Edmonds, are conducting the trials, but are no longer recruiting patients.
Full results from the phase 2 trial are expected by the end of the year.