This thesis paper details research in the area of cell division in the disc, as well as the possibility of influencing the disc through cell transplantation. The researchers indentified areas in the periphery of the disc in which the cells have properties similar to those of stem cells, in both animal and human discs.
According to one of the researchers, Helena Barreto-Henriksson, "Images taken by MRI showed that the transplanted stem cells survived, that they developed into cells that had a function similar to that of disc cells, and that there was a certain degree of healing in the disc.”
The researcher’s thesis is that these cells contribute to the growth of new cells, and provide the disc with a certain capacity to heal. A potential treatment option would be to stimulate existing stem cells in the neighborhood, and other is to develop methods for cell transplantation in patients, using the patient’s own stem cells from the bone marrow.
We’re still years away from the treatment of lower back pain using stem cells; however the researchers hope that the results of this study will stimulate further studies about the possibility of restoring the intervertebral disc or to prevent its further degeneration using biological treatments. One of the researchers, Helena Barreto-Henriksson says that, "The advantage of such treatment over today's surgical approaches is that it would be a much simpler and less serious procedure for the patient."
Sources: University of Gothenburg