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Disc-degeneration linked pathologies: novel biomarkers and diagnostics for targeting treatment and repair (Genodisc)
Start date: Mar 1, 2008, End date: Feb 28, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Disorders arising from degeneration of the intervertebral disc are an enormous clinical and financial burden on European societies. Most of the burden arises from 10% of patients who become chronically disabled. Any factor which will improve treatment of back pain sufferers or prevent development of chronic disability would have an important impact both on society and in improving quality of life of patients. Improving diagnosis is the key. At present, 85% of patients have no clear diagnosis resulting in arbitrary treatments, usually surgical, which range widely from centre to centre and are often ineffective. Without clear diagnostic criteria, treatments and preventative measures cannot be targeted effectively. Patients may be subjected to unnecessary and expensive interventions or else denied treatment which could be beneficial Scientific advances in understanding the aetiopathology of these disorders are necessary for development of objective diagnostic criteria, rational application of present treatments and development of new therapies. Genodisc aims to contribute to improvement of patient care through improving diagnosis of disc-related pathologies both by more effective utilisation of present diagnostic information and by developing novel diagnostic tools. Through these new diagnostic methods, it aims to select patients at risk of chronic low back pain and spinal stenosis. It also aims to develop criteria for selecting patients who will benefit from newly emerging biological therapies for treating disc degeneration. The scientific advances underpinning improved diagnosis will arise from genotyping carefully phenotyped patients, from research into the processes of disc degeneration and from models of how these molecular processes lead to disc failure. This research will potentially provide biomarkers which will increase diagnostic specificity and provide targets for development of drug therapies.

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