NIH Grant to Fund Study on Inflammation in Back Pain

NIH Grant to Fund Study on Inflammation in Back Pain

By Staff

A new study has been funded by the National Institutes of Helath’s (NIH) National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) to explore the role of inflammation in back pain, specifically in degenerative disc diseases of the spine.

The $1.8 million grant was awarded to scientist Nadeen Chahine, PhD from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and will last for five years.

The study will look into interactions of molecules and receptors to determine what triggers degenerative intervertebral discs (IVD) in the spine, causing debilitating pain in the lower back, buttocks and thighs.  The rubber discs in the spine of those with IVD begin to shrink and lose their structural integrity, which causes the pain.  Today, IVD is normally treated with physical medicine, pain medication or surgery, but none of these treatments completely eliminate the pain.

Dr. Chahine’s study, “Mechanobiology of Inflammation in Intervertebral Disc,” will follow the high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) molecule, which is a protein expressed by dying or stressed cells.  Dr. Chahine believes that this protein could be a trigger for inflammation and disc degeneration.

“Disability and pain stemming from degenerated intervertebral discs affects more than 40 percent of adults in the US and costs more than $100 billion annually,” said Dr. Chahine, a biomedical engineer, whose research is specific to understanding how inflammation changes the disc’s ability to bear load.  If proven correct, her research could lead to alternate treatments to slow down or possibly reverse the degeneration of spinal discs.

“I’m extremely grateful for NIAMS’ support to embark on this study, which brings together bioengineers, clinicians and biologists to explore a unique combination of inflammation and mechanobiology in this common condition that is understudied,” she said. “It is our hope that this study will get us closer to a treatment of disc degeneration.”

“Dr. Chahine is an extraordinary investigator, leading innovative research and this NIH support is an important step to improve the lives of patients,” said Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute.

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Authored by: Staff

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gerard l becker

glad there is another study for this inscrutable horror!
However it is not likely that it will benefit me in this life time! (age 75)
Having had every door closed but the one I shall never take (fusion),
at least its good to think that a future generation from this insidious disease ( please—do not call it benign!) will have some hope!

Rebecca Kendall

I have Osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, severe degenerative disc disease, extensive stenosis, diabetes diet controlled, neuropathy and too much to list. I have been eating relatively healthy. Try to exercise as much as I am able as standing and walking are very painful. Done research on inflammation. It just doesnt seem to be getting better. I had a knee replacement due the rheumatoid arthritis two months ago. Still strugging with pain in other knee. Both hips have been replaced. Lumbar and cervical fusions which I was told needed revision alittle over a year after they were done. My mind is young , I would give almost anything to feel good one day. I have been fighting for disability over two years. Some days I wonder if it is worth it to keep fighting. Will I ever feel good and not useless again.


To what Dave said: I have degenerative disc disease. Why my body isn’t resolving inflammation? How about Sjogrens, and fibro myalgia. There are many of us out there with degenerative discs and have underlying causes. Any study, no matter how big, or small, is imperative to solutions.


Studying inflammatory markers in pain is not innovative- on the contrary its the same old antipathic paradigm that has left 80% of back pain of unknown origin. This study focuses on discogenic pain which is a relatively small percentage of back pain. It would be better to focus on resolving markers instead of DAMPS- Damage Associated Molecular Patterns- HMGB1- is one of those. Moreover it makes sense to use the energy crises model of pain to ascertain why the body isn’t resolving inflammation.
As the saying goes underpowered research is unethical. This research stems from an underpowered paradigm that persists despite its obvious failure. This is unethical. as too many suffering back pain at a cost of over $50 billion need and deserve progressive research that either prevents or cures back pain.