Chronic Back Pain Breakthroughs

If you've ever suffered back pain, you're not alone; about eight in ten Americans will experience it at some point in their lives. But there's hope: Doctors and scientists are exploring new treatments to ease temporary and chronic back pain. Here are a few of the success stories.

By Michael J. Weiss from Reader's Digest | July 2007

Bone Growth Drug Targets Back Pain

Many elderly people experience back pain from osteoporosis and serious bone fractures. But what if frail bones could grow stronger — as strong as new bone? That’s the idea behind site-directed bone growth (SDBG). A patient with diseased or damaged vertebrae undergoes a minimally invasive outpatient procedure and receives an anabolic drug to accelerate natural bone growth at precise locations. The strengthened bone, in turn, lessens the back pain.

“The novel idea is to target new bone to specific sites,” says Agnès Vignery, PhD, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Yale University Medical School who developed SDBG with clinicians at Unigene Laboratories in Fairfield, New Jersey. “Most drugs affect the whole body. But our treatment increases bone mass just where it’s needed.”

Already, investigators have demonstrated success with SDBG in experiments involving mice and rats. In 2005 the Unigene team filed for patents, with plans to start clinical trials involving humans in the next two years. And though Vignery refuses to speculate how soon the therapy may be ready for people, she’s excited about SDBG’s potential to remedy a wide array of ailments.

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