Dr Brian Saunders from The School of Materials and Professor Tony Freemont from The Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences have developed tiny gel particles that swell and stiffen when injected into a damaged area.
Investigations have revealed that degenerated animal intervertebral discs containing the injected 'microgels' regain their mechanical properties.
This development opens up the possibility of human patients being able to regain full mobility and flexibility after receiving spinal injections.
This would compare favourably with spinal fusion - a major surgical procedure with considerable recovery time for the patient, resulting in a significant loss of mobility at the fused and adjacent discs.
Degeneration of intervertebral discs causes holes in the load-bearing tissue of the disc, decreasing disc height and resulting in pain.
The microgel particles the research team have developed are like 'smart sponges' when dispersed in water.
The material is a fluid at a low pH - in other words, a low level of acidity - and can be injected through a syringe. It changes to a stiff gel at physiological pH values - that is, once it enters the body - due to absorption of water by the particles.
During their investigations, the research team injected the material into a damaged bovine intervertebral disc and increased the pH to biological levels by injecting an alkaline solution.
Professor Freemont, who works in the Division of Regenerative Medicine in the School of Medicine, said: "This research was motivated by the urgent need for a non-surgical method for repairing intervertebral discs.
"Our approach has the advantage of restoring spinal mobility whereas spinal fusion surgery results in a significant loss of mobility at the fused and adjacent discs."
Dr Saunders said: "Although we are encouraged by our findings, much work lies ahead to develop a viable non-surgical repair technology to replace spinal fusion as the standard surgical treatment for chronic lower back pain."
He added that future work will investigate biodegradable microgels that release additives to stimulate regeneration of intervertebral disc tissue.
The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and The University of Manchester Intellectual Property Ltd (UMIP).
Dr Saunders and Professor Freemont recently reported their findings in the online journal Soft Matter. They now hope to secure extra funding with a view to conducting clinical trials.
Jon Keighren | alfa
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy