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October 27, 2017

Searching for a genetic contributor to degenerative disk disease

By Sharon Rosen

Mohamad Bydon,M.D., with 3-D models of the spine and neck.

Most people suffer from some type of back pain during their lifetime. That’s because there are many joints in the back that can degenerate over time. In many cases, back pain can be relieved without surgery. Ice packs, heat packs, physical therapy or injections can offer relief. However, for those who suffer from degenerative disk disease, in which the tissue in a disk in the lower back breaks down, there are few treatment options. These patients may suffer chronic, debilitating pain that can impact quality of life.

According to Mohamad Bydon, M.D., the genetic signatures which underpin the disease remain unclassified, especially for young patients who develop the condition. That’s why Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine is supporting research to identify molecular changes associated with the condition, with the hopes of finding new individualized therapies.

“Young patients can develop degenerative disk disease. As a multidisciplinary team, we are examining whether certain genetic events predispose patients to this condition,” says Dr. Bydon, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon and a member of the research team exploring individualized therapies for degenerative disk disease.

Genomic testing could help find answers, new treatments

During surgery to repair disk damage, Dr. Bydon and his colleagues are obtaining samples of disk tissue for genomic testing to help answer these questions:

  • Is there a genetic signature that is causing disks in the spine to deteriorate early in life?
  • Do patients without the disease have some type of protective biological characteristic that prevents disk deterioration that those with degenerative disk disease don’t have?
  • Can new therapies be developed to target genetic factors and molecular processes causing the disease to slow down or reverse disk damage?

According to Dr. Bydon, this research could be especially important for patients for whom corrective surgery doesn’t work or isn’t a good choice.

“Many older patients have other complex health conditions, making them poor candidates for surgical treatment. Targeted therapies would offer these older patients a new, safer option for treatment and could help reduce their pain and improve their quality of life,” says Dr. Bydon.

Teamwork key to advancing care

"Support from the Center for Individualized Medicine has allowed us to bring together clinicians and researchers from across Mayo Clinic to help patients with degenerative disk disease find relief from their painful symptoms and return to their daily activities. This collaboration to solve unmet patient needs is what sets Mayo apart." – Mohamad Bydon, M.D.

Dr. Bydon is collaborating with a multidisciplinary team that includes neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists (experts in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disabilities of all types), biomedical engineers, geneticists, genetic counselors and bioinformatics experts.

“Support from the Center for Individualized Medicine has allowed us to bring together clinicians and researchers from across Mayo Clinic to help patients with degenerative disk disease find relief from their painful symptoms and return to their daily activities. This collaboration to solve unmet patient needs is what sets Mayo apart – we are able to pool expertise to help improve the lives of our patients. We hope this research will lead to new treatment options for patients,” says Dr. Bydon

Joining Dr. Bydon in this research effort are Mayo researchers Andre van Wijnen, Ph.D.A. Noelle Larson, M.D.Ahmad Nassr, M.D., and  Wenchun Qu, M.D., M.S., Ph.D.

Join the conversation

For more information on the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, visit our blogFacebookLinkedIn or Twitter at @MayoClinicCIM.

See highlights from our recent Individualizing Medicine Conference 2017: Advancing Care Through Genomics:

Save the date for next year’s Individualizing Medicine Conference. It will be held Sept. 12-13, 2018.

 

Tags: #CIMCon17, #degenerative disk disease, #DNA sequencing tests, #Dr. A. Noelle Larson, #Dr. Ahmad Nassr, #Dr. Andre van Wijnen, #Dr. Mohamad Bydon, #Dr. Wenchun Qu, #genomic profling, #genomic testing, #minimally invasive spine surgery, #targeted therapies, center for individualized medicine, mayo clinic, medical research, Precision Medicine

How can I volunteer?

@deniseporter

How can I volunteer?

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Thank you for your interest. Research volunteers are not needed for this study.

 

I am 58 years old with a moderate scoliosis in thoracic and lumbar be areas. I have had 2 laminectomies in the last 10 years. I am scheduled to visit neurosurgeon for a consult on January 10. I have been suffering with psoriatic arthritis and degenerative disc disease since approximately 30 years of age. Because of the chronic pain, it is difficult to exercise regularly. Looking for options for a better quality of life.

I have had laminectomies done three times, staph infection after first one, have anerospinal stymulator since 2008 and only worked a couple of years. I can have the battery removed, but too dangerous to remove everything else. Plus I have arthritis everywhere. The pain is getting much worse until I have no life. Is there anything you can suggest that can help me with some of the pain. I take percocet for pain, but only at night. I struggle through the day so that I don’t take a lot of the pain pills.

@labadie

I am 58 years old with a moderate scoliosis in thoracic and lumbar be areas. I have had 2 laminectomies in the last 10 years. I am scheduled to visit neurosurgeon for a consult on January 10. I have been suffering with psoriatic arthritis and degenerative disc disease since approximately 30 years of age. Because of the chronic pain, it is difficult to exercise regularly. Looking for options for a better quality of life.

Jump to this post

Thank you for your note. People with chronic pain can suffer disability. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this correspondence. If you would like to seek help from Mayo Clinic, please call one of our appointment offices (Arizona: 800-446-2279, Florida: 904-953-0853, Minnesota: 507-538-3270) or request an appointment online: http://www.mayoclinic.org/appointments.

@bearsmom16

I have had laminectomies done three times, staph infection after first one, have anerospinal stymulator since 2008 and only worked a couple of years. I can have the battery removed, but too dangerous to remove everything else. Plus I have arthritis everywhere. The pain is getting much worse until I have no life. Is there anything you can suggest that can help me with some of the pain. I take percocet for pain, but only at night. I struggle through the day so that I don’t take a lot of the pain pills.

Jump to this post

Thank you for your note and your interest in Mayo Clinic research. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this correspondence. If you would like to seek help from Mayo Clinic, please call one of our appointment offices (Arizona: 800-446-2279, Florida: 904-953-0853, Minnesota: 507-538-3270) or request an appointment online: http://www.mayoclinic.org/appointments.

I was diagnosed w degenerative disk disease at age 25 and I've since had four lumbar surgeries including a fusion at L5-S1 after two failed disectomy/laminectomies, and my C5-C7 was fused in September. I'd happily contribute a DNA sample as a young person w DDD and failed back syndrome among other chronic conditions. My doctors think the DDD must have been juvenile onset but went undiagnosed because I was so athletic and active and summed my pain up to exercise aches and pains. I've now been on disability primarily because of my spinal issues for a decade and I'm only 36 year olds.

@lindsayd

I was diagnosed w degenerative disk disease at age 25 and I've since had four lumbar surgeries including a fusion at L5-S1 after two failed disectomy/laminectomies, and my C5-C7 was fused in September. I'd happily contribute a DNA sample as a young person w DDD and failed back syndrome among other chronic conditions. My doctors think the DDD must have been juvenile onset but went undiagnosed because I was so athletic and active and summed my pain up to exercise aches and pains. I've now been on disability primarily because of my spinal issues for a decade and I'm only 36 year olds.

Jump to this post

Thank you for your note and your interest in Mayo Clinic research. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this correspondence. If you would like to seek help from Mayo Clinic, please call one of our appointment offices (Arizona: 800-446-2279, Florida: 904-953-0853, Minnesota: 507-538-3270) or request an appointment online: http://www.mayoclinic.org/appointments.

I am not seeking a diagnosis, second opinion or treatment. The basis of this study is to collect DNA samples from patients like me who are young and have severe degenerative disk disease so as to investigate whether there is something missing in our DNA to protect the spine. I am offering my DNA to help the researchers expand their bank of DNA in order to see if there is something in my genetic makeup that may help them pinpoint a future treatment for both people like me who haven't had much success with surgery and for older patients who may not be strong enough to undergo surgery.

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