Care of the Spine Backed by Research

Clinical Research

Research is an important part of the future of spine care and treatments. At Spine Service we either initiate or participate in clinical trials for surgical devices or bio-surgery molecules. We are also involved in clinically relevant spine research projects in collaboration with numerous teams.

Past collaborations have included:

A study evaluating tissue, normally discarded during surgery, for clues about how fatty degeneration of paravertebral muscles occur, in collaboration with Prof Paul Hodges of Queensland University.

A study the pain-relieving effects of GDF6 as a potential cure for disc related back pain, with Prof Koichi Masuda of University of California San Diego; this work has been awarded the ISSLS prize for best research for 2018.

We have also collaborated with Researchers from Rush University, Ohio State University and Cornell University to understand re-herniation of the disc following microdiscectomy operations using big data analytics; along with researchers from UNSW who were investigating whether small spots in the spinal bones seen on MRI were a possible cause of back pain; and who found these spots were much more common in people with back pain than in people with no pain, suggesting they may be a part of the pain process.

Current Collaborations:
  • Identifying which structures help keep the spine in normal alignment, spondylolisthesis, as well as finding better ways to measure whether intervertebral discs are healthy or degenerate.
  • Exploring the molecular mechanism in spinal degenerative disease, and improving the clinical management and outcomes for people who suffer from musculoskeletal disorders of the spine; along with low back pain, spondylo-arthritis, and intervertebral disc degeneration.
  • Advancing the better understanding of low back pain through developing a program of research focusing on its characterisation and its quantification. An area that is still unclear when related to axial back pain or neural injury pain and associated spinal structures.
  • Reviewing Complications following discectomy: biomechanical and clinical study: A procedure that has fewer complications will have a superior clinical utility as it directly impacts efficacy and cost, patient suffering, medical service, and socio-economic burdens.
  • The effects of obesity on spine health & pain: The aim of this study is to better understand how obesity effects spine degeneration and back pain, by looking at the molecular mechanisms in high fat diet-fed mice using different types of analytical techniques.
  • Low back pain and microbiome: a longitudinal study in chronic low back pain to prove the hypothesis that human microbiome might contribute to inflammatory disc degeneration, and pain.
  • Smoking and spine degenerative disease: investigating the mechanisms and effects underlying smoking on spine ageing and degenerative disease, working to provide the evidence base to be able to minimise the harmful effects caused to the spine.
  • Decay Variance for Spinal Disc Pain: investigating whether a newly developed MRI technique is able to tell which spinal discs are painful, more accurately than existing techniques.
Future Research Collaborations:
  • Investigating persistent leg pain after disc surgery: why a small number of people have leg pain that doesn't get better when a spinal disc that was squashing a nerve is removed, using a cutting edge MRI technique that looks at nerve integrity at a microscopic level.
  • Iliolumbar ligament anatomy and spondylolisthesis: examining whether the size, shape and direction of a ligament that connects the spine to the pelvis determines how likely people are to have a bone in their spine slip out of place (spondylolisthesis).