Swell gel could bring relief to back pain sufferers

Scientists have developed a "microgel" that swells and stiffens when injected into a damaged area of the spine; and could provide an alternative to major surgery for the treatment of lower back pain.

Degeneration of intervertebral discs causes holes in their load-bearing tissue, decreasing the discs' height and resulting in chronic pain for the patient. But in animals the discs have been found to regain their mechanical properties when injected with the team's microgel.

The material is initially a fluid with a low acidity level or pH value, but changes to a stiff gel when injected into the body as its pH value changes and its sponge-like particles absorb water.

Source: medicine.manchester.ac.ukAdded: 12 September 2007