Stem Cells to the Rescue: Oh, my Back--In-Depth Doctor's Interview
Tory L. McJunkin, MD, Principal Investigator at Arizona Pain Specialists, talks about how stem cells could help back pain.
How big of a breakthrough would you say this is?
Dr. McJunkin: It is really a big breakthrough. It’s super exciting because it has the potential to really change the way that we manage and the way that we treat disease states.
How did you get involved in it?
Dr. McJunkin: The study is by MesoBlast and it’s a company out of Australia and basically it’s for degenerative disc disease. We are diagnosing people who have painful degenerative disc and when they become painful there’s very little right now that we can do to treat them. So, the idea on the study is to see if stem cells injected into the disc will help to change the disc and change people’s lives.
What are the results so far in the animal studies?
Dr. McJunkin: The animal studies have been very impressive. Actually, they’ve created the model for degenerative disc disease. Also, they’ve injected different substances inside the discs. They’ve done a high dose stem cell, a lower dose stem cell, and then they’ve done the carrier molecule. They did this study on sheep, but the MRI’s before and after you can’t tell the difference on which sheep disc were treated with the stem cells and which ones weren’t.
Are these stem cells reproducing these discs?
Dr.McJunkin: Exactly. That’s what stem cells do. Stem cells have the ability to differentiate and to replicate themselves. So, when they’re injected into an area, if that area is damaged they have the ability to change and regrow that tissue until it’s a normal tissue.
What do you think the implications are?
Dr. McJunkin: I think the implications are huge. Not just for the spine and degenerative disc disease, back disease, even herniated disc, but other things that they’re studying right now, like heart disease and diabetes. I think the potential is almost limitless.
How long have you been with Arizona Pain Specialists?
Dr. McJunkin: My partner and I founded Arizona Pain Specialists about six years ago and I’ve been practicing pain for seven years. This is probably the most exciting research study that we’ve done just because it has the potential to change the disease state instead of just treating the symptoms.
Are there any preliminary results that you can share with us?
Dr. McJunkin: Not really. I can talk about the animal study. The animal study was very exciting because it really did change the morphology of the disc. It actually changed the way that the disc appeared on the MRI. The radiologists were blinded; they couldn’t tell the difference. After the disc was treated they really couldn’t tell which disc was normal and which was diseased. We’ve completed the Phase II clinical study in the human study and the data is back with the FDA right now and will await the launch of the Phase III study coming up soon.
Is there anything that you can say about the length of time it takes for the disc to fully regenerate?
Dr. McJunkin: Right now, we just don’t know. We don’t know several different things, but that’s one of the exciting things about this study. It is actually a controlled randomized study. So it compares placebo, injecting saline into a degenerative disc versus a higher dose of the stem cells versus a lower dose of the stem cells.
END OF INTERVIEW
This information is intended for additional research purposes only. It is not to be used as a prescription or advice from Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. or any medical professional interviewed. Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the depth or accuracy of physician statements. Procedures or medicines apply to different people and medical factors; always consult your physician on medical matters.
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If you would like more information, please contact:
Tory L. McJunkin, MD
Arizona Pain Specialists
To read the full report,Stem Cells to the Rescue: Oh, my Back!, click here.