If all goes according to plan, an experimental therapy now being tested at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center could soon provide relief to those who suffer severe back pain.

Dr. Hyun Bae, director of spine education at the sprawling West Hollywood hospital’s Spine Center, is the first doctor in Los Angeles to use an experimental treatment on his patients. He injects adult stem cells into the discs that act as a cushion between vertebrae. The problem is that discs deflate as people age. The stem cell treatment is designed to counteract this deflation.

The treatment was developed by Mesoblast in Melbourne, Australia. The company which is also conducting trials on patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes and patients in need of bone marrow transplants.

Bae is one of three doctors in the United States testing the treatment. He recently began participating in Phase 3 trials in the Federal Drug Administration’s approval process.

The doctor said the idea with regenerative medicine is to use the body to treat itself and that this needs to be done so people can maintain active lifestyles longer.

“We’ve got the same spine we had 100 million years ago,” Bae said. “The spine is really designed to last 30 or 40 years.”

The Mesoblast stem cell therapy is being tested on people with back pain that has not responded to other treatments, and it can help them avoid surgery, said Craig Parsons, an L.A. spokesman for Mesoblast.

“The trial results have been extremely successful to date and we have every expectation that Phase 3 will yield similarly positive results,” Parsons said.

– Philip Joens

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