Degenerative disc disease often causes severe low-back pain, a public health problem with huge economic and life quality impact. Chronic cases often require surgery, which may lead to biomechanical problems and accelerated degeneration of the adjacent segments. Autologous mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) treatments have shown feasibility, safety and strong indications of clinical efficacy. We present here a randomized, controlled trial using allogeneic MSC, which are logistically more convenient than autologous cells.Methods
We randomized 24 patients with chronic back pain diagnosed with lumbar disk degeneration and unresponsive to conservative treatments into 2 groups. The test group received allogeneic bone marrow MSCs by intradiscal injection of 25 × 106 cells per segment under local anesthesia. The control group received a sham infiltration of paravertebral musculature with the anesthetic. Clinical outcomes were followed up for 1 year and included evaluation of pain, disability, and quality of life. Disc quality was followed up by magnetic resonance imaging.Results
Feasibility and safety were confirmed and indications of clinical efficacy were identified. MSC-treated patients displayed a quick and significant improvement in algofunctional indices versus the controls. This improvement seemed restricted to a group of responders that included 40% of the cohort. Degeneration, quantified by Pfirrmann grading, improved in the MSC-treated patients and worsened in the controls.Conclusions
Allogeneic MSC therapy may be a valid alternative for the treatment of degenerative disc disease that is more logistically convenient than the autologous MSC treatment. The intervention is simple, does not require surgery, provides pain relief, and significantly improves disc quality.