09:23 AM

HSS Lab Has Fountain of Youth for Discs?

HSS scientist Chitra Dahia, PhD discusses her team’s research examining the signaling pathways that keep discs healthy, to ultimately develop approaches for regeneration and treatment of lower back and disc related disorders.

“Traditionally, the focus has been on degenerated discs rather than understanding the state of a healthy disc, and what changes leads to its pathological state. But our lab is asking questions such as, ‘What are the signaling pathways that keep a disc healthy (maintaining a certain number of cells, the health of these cells, preventing them from dying, disc innervation, etc.)?’ In part, we concentrate on sonic hedgehog, Wnt, BMP and TGFβ signaling pathways, to understand their role during the neonatal period, a time of continued development for all organs and tissues in the body," said Dr. Dahia. “And since the precursors of the nucleus pulposus—that form the center of the disc—is the key regulator of embryogenesis and patterning called ‘notochord.’ Notochord is important because it provides mechanical strength to the embryo, acts as a signaling center and manufactures a protein called sonic hedgehog.

Fundamentally, Dr. Dahia and her team are trying to gain an in-depth understanding of why some degenerated discs are painful, while other are not. “Maybe whatever the degenerating disc is making is mediating the pain. And maybe young and healthy discs have a molecular profile, i.e., signals that are preventing the expression of the genes that cause inflammation. We want to know what changes are occurring in the disc that cause it to degenerate and result in pain symptoms,” she said.

Read the full article at OrthoSpineNews.com.