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Injection could help regrow spine, reduce back pain

by Jean Enersen / KING 5 News
December 1, 2009

Rebecca Tirs spends most days in bed with her dog, Jenny-Bee.

Ten years ago, Rebecca was an active 28-year-old. Then came a roll-over car accident.

“I had a mild traumatic brain injury. I had a fractured pelvis. I had fractured scapula, fractured ribs,” she said.

Rebecca also tore two discs. She can barely walk now and had to quit work

“I cried all the time,” she said.

Dr. Michael DePalma of Virginia Commonwealth University Spine Center is working on a new way to heal injured backs. As part of a clinical trial, he injects natural growth factors into damaged discs.

“The growth factors are that, they stimulate growth of certain tissue,” he said.

The injection includes a growth factor called OP-1, a key ingredient in the development of bone and tissue. In animals, the shot helped damaged discs grow back now it’s being tested in humans.

“This sort of treatment may find its role in treating the disc before they get to a point beyond which only surgery is going to help,” said Dr. DePalma.

Rebecca doesn’t know if she received a placebo or the real thing, but her pain level has improved.

“Instead of maybe an eight or a nine, I was a seven,” she said.

She says every bit helps if it gets her one step closer to her old, vibrant self.

Several medical sites across the country are participating in the trial. The closest is in California.

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