The Science of Disc Degeneration

The Science of Disc Degeneration


[ Music ]>>When we think about disc degeneration, I think the most important first principle
is it just a normal part of aging. And the holy grail, or the
thing we really don’t know yet, is what is it about some degenerative discs
that causes severe pain and what doesn’t?>>The goal of our research program is to
understand the cellular and molecular basis of this growth and the changes associated
with this aging and degeneration. The focus being on the developmental molecules
like Sonic hedgehog downstream target signaling, and to test the hypothesis whether the
developmental molecules can be used to recapitulate development in a
degenerating disc and hence treat back pain.>>How can we either prevent a disc from
degenerating or prevent normal aging, or regenerate a disc that has degenerated?>>Using genetic mouse model system, we had
shown that activation of hedgehog signaling in only a subset of nucleus pulposus cells
not only changed the entire structure of the nucleus pulposus but also the surrounding
annulus fibrosis and the endplate cells too. So this suggests that there
is a potential for activation of hedgehog signaling for disc regeneration.>>What would be really nice is if we could
identify who’s going to both degenerate and become painful and prevent that.>>In future, we hope that we can elucidate
the role of Sonic hedgehog and prevention of this degeneration, whether it can prevent
the degenerative cascade that we have observed in aging mice and the painful
symptoms that they show. Or we can use it for reactivation
or regeneration of the disc into a much younger and healthy phenotype.>>The ultimate goal of this research is
to prevent disc degeneration and/or be able to reverse disc degeneration in
those that have already degenerated.

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