Back pain is one of the most cost-intensive health problems in the world, with an extremely high prevalence. One specific form of back pain is called discogenic back pain, which can arise under certain degenerative conditions. Disc degeneration is a complex process, but a common feature is the accumulation of specific matrix degradation products (e.g. fragmentation products), although quality and quantity of degeneration products can differ in a group with a similar degree of degeneration.
Based on this observation, the overall interest of the Spine Research Group is to elucidate cellular mechanisms during degeneration that may underlie the development of discogenic back pain; this knowledge could be used to develop novel treatment options. More specifically, one hypothesis of our research is that certain degradation products may increase levels of proinflammatory cytokines, which can irritate nerves in the outer part of the disc, thus contributing to pain development. Another hypothesis is that certain biodrugs can interfere in this proinflammatory cascade and can thus be used to treat discogenic back pain in a minimal invasive manner.