When you get older, your back aches. Why? One explanation is those cushy shock absorbers called nucleus pulposus (NP) between your vertebrae that provide support, spine, mobility and equal weight distribution are worn down. Unfortunately, you can't exactly take your vertebrae to the mechanic's shop for a tune-up. But thanks to a new biomaterial created by researchers at Duke University, old aching backs might get some relief.
The material is a liquid full of regenerative cells that's injected directly into the tissue in between the vertebrae. Once infused, it turns into a gel, which helps hold in the healthy NP cells, helps repair damaged cells and aids new ones in forming.
Therapeutic injections to delay the degeneration of spinal discs aren't exactly new. But the problem is they don't last — new cells often leak after a few days. With the new method, the viscous solution works like a glue, forming a gel when three liquid components mix, usually after about five minutes, and it should last for significantly longer than 14 days. We don't know exactly how long that is, but hey longer is better. The material has been tested in rats with moderate success. And while we can't trade in our backs when we get old, maybe we can get a little relief. [Biomaterials via Futurity via PopSci]