12:15 PM

Stem Cell Discovery Could Revolutionize Spine and Cancer Care

Pain News Network reports on the discovery of a new type of stem cell could revolutionize the treatment of spine disorders and slow the progression of some cancers, according to a groundbreaking study published in Nature.

Researchers from HSS and Weill Cornell Medicine say the vertebral stem cells they found in human spines appear to play a key role in spinal health and in the metastasis of cancerous tumors as they spread through the body.

“There are two big takeaway discoveries that were made here. One is that we have discovered a stem cell that forms the spine and maintains the spine throughout life. This cell makes all the other cells that mineralize the spine,” said lead investigator Matthew Greenblatt, MD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.

“The second discovery here is that we found that this stem cell drives tumors. Breast cancer is what we focused on here, but likely also prostate cancer,” said Dr. Greenblatt.

“I think kind of figuring out how to recruit the cells or how to how to encourage them to form more bone is going to be an important area or avenue of investigation for us, as a way to help people and protect people against what is a very morbid condition for them," explained Sravisht Iyer, MD, co-author and spine surgeon at HSS 

Dr. Iyer said early treatment with vertebral stem cells could help someone with osteoporosis or a spine fracture, but wouldn’t necessarily benefit patients suffering from more advanced cases of bone loss.

“By the time people are presenting to us with spine pain, they usually have some element of compressive pathology or a degree of degeneration, which will likely require some intervention, whether that's surgery or epidural injection,” said Dr. Iyer.

“Where this work I think can really help push us forward is once you get those at-risk patients, they probably will need a surgery because a lot of degeneration is asymptomatic, and by the time they get to you they probably need something, but maybe you can prevent the second, third or fourth operation or intervention," Dr. Iyer explained. 

Read the full article at painnewsnetwork.org.