Coimbatore: Ganga Hospital’s Spine Research Team has created a record by winning the North American Spine Society Outstanding Research award for the second time consecutively this year.
The team is unique and multidisciplinary, consisting of spine surgeons (Dr S Rajasekaran, Dr Dilipchand Raja, Dr Vijay Anand, Dr Ajoy Prasad Shetty, Dr Rishi Mugesh Kanna), radiologist (Dr Pushpa), Basic Science Specialists (Dr Raveendran Muthurajan, Dr Chitra Tangavel, Mrs Sharon Nayagam, Mrs Sunmathi and Mrs Steffi).
One of the most prestigious and valued award in spine surgery, the Outstanding Research award is given jointly by the North American Spine Society (NASS) and internationally renowned journal, The Spine Journal (TSJ), which has one of the highest impact factor for spine speciality international journals. Every year, the award is fiercely competed by researchers from all over the world and the winning paper is published as a lead article in the journal. The winning team is invited to present their paper in the Annual Meeting of the North American Spine Society held in USA. The award carries a cash prize of USD 10,000.
In 2019, Ganga Hospital’s research team bagged the award for their research titled ‘Inflammaging Determines Health and Disease in Lumbar discs- Evidence from Differing Proteomic Signatures of Healthy, Aging and Degenerating Discs’. The research analysed, at a molecular level the cause for disc degeneration which is the major reason for low back pain. The research looked at the causative factors of disc disease at cellular level and also the possibility of sub-clinical infection as a potential cause for low back pain. This was published in the Spine Journal, USA and the paper was also presented in the Annual Meeting in Chicago, 2019.
This year, the team has been awarded the North American Spine Society Outstanding Research award for the second time consecutively for the research on ‘Uncovering Molecular Targets for Regenerative Therapy in Degenerative Disc Disease: Do Small Leucine-Rich Proteoglycans hold the Key’. The research is a combination of clinical, basic science, radiological and molecular level research on the cause for lumbar disc degeneration and low back pain. The work mainly utilises proteomics for analysing the expression of Small Leucine-Rich Proteoglycans in fetal, healthy adult and degenerated discs, to identify possible molecular targets to halt or reverse the degenerative process. This work has huge importance in trying to prevent and also reverse disc degeneration. The highlight of the study was to compare the molecular level activity in fetus with young and old adults and to identify proteins and molecules which can act as biomarkers for early degeneration.
Significance of the research
Low back pain significantly reduces the quality of life of nearly 70 per cent of the patients worldwide causing a considerable economic and social impact. Degenerative disc disease is the commonest cause of low back pain. Irrespective of the etiology, the terminal inflammation causes disintegration of the extra cellular matrix resulting in altered spinal bio-mechanics and chronic low back pain. While, the previous five decades have mainly concentrated on surgical intervention with advanced instruments, research in regenerative medicine to solve the problem has been limited and mainly restricted to animal studies. We attempted to identify molecular targets for biological repair of discs which could be probed for regenerative interventions in future. While, the use of stem cells is not specific to the cellular phenotype of human intervertebral discs, our current research of comparing human fetal discs which has huge regenerative potential has led to significant clues on molecular targets such as native small leucine rich proteoglycans which could be manipulated by either gene therapy or tissue regeneration. This is a breakthrough finding which has never been done so far. We found Biglycan to be significantly upregulated in fetal discs and also noted down regulation of Lumican Decorin, Prolargin and Chondroadherin in the disc degeneration group. These molecular targets have huge potential for biological implications in disc degeneration and regeneration