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Biomimetic aggrecan injection for degenerative disc and lower back pain treatment

Drexel University
posted on 02/08/2010

Drexel’s researchers and physicians have developed a new injectable synthetic material mimicking aggrecan of nucleus pulposus. Injection of this material can be used to restore mechanical properties of degenerated disc and thus alleviate lower back pain.

Degenerative disc disease of the spine causing lower back pain is one of the leading musculoskeletal disorders confronting our health system. Annually, 15%-20% of the population experiences lower back pain; 60% or more will experience back pain over a lifetime(2). The utilization of epidural injections for managing chronic back pain was shown to increase from 802,735 in 1998 to 1,776,153 (121% over 7 years) as reported by medicare. At the time of the steroid injection procedure, however, it would be possible to also inject the nucleus with a material that would augment the disc and restore normal mechanics, thus alleviating pain long term. We propose such a material that would serve as an injectable medical augmentation device. We believe that the treatment will be considered a device rather than drug by the FDA. The material system is based on the 3D brush-like structure of aggrecan, the primary proteoglycan of the nucleus. Aggrecan has two main mechanical functions in the disc: 1) it allows water uptake by the nucleus due to sulfated groups in the chondroitin and keratin sulfate rich regions which, in part, provide intradiscal pressure and 2) it provides electrostatic repulsion due to the 3D macromolecular structure, which contributes to intradiscal pressure and disc height. We believe such biomimetic aggrecan injection will become an effective early-stage treatment of the degenerative disc disease.


- Advanced treatment delivered by injection concurrently with steroid injection, which is a current gold standard of early stage treatment of lower back pain

- Minimally invasive treatment with potential results comparable to those of invasive surgery

Innovation Details

Detailed Description

For more detailes about this invention please contact the case manager, Dr. Alexey Melishchuk at Drexel’s Office for Technology Commercialization at 215-895-0304 or email at:

File Number: 09-1057D 

Disease: Musculoskeletal Disorders

Other Information:

This device is protected by a pending patent application and available for licensing from Drexel University. For more information please contact the case manager, Dr. Alexey Melishchuk at 215-895-0304 or email at:

IP Protection

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This innovation currently is not available for online licensing. Please contact Alexey Melishchuk at Drexel University for more information.

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Case Manager:

Alexey Melishchuk Alexey Melishchuk

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February 11, 2009

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