Back Pain Research – Using Old Bones to Study Back Pain



March 16, 2011

Computer modeling has long been used in research and engineering. Recently, it found a new role in back pain research, which studies the spine and developing innovative treatments for chronic back pain. And this time, it teams up with the spines of 40 people who died up to a hundred years ago.

How will this back pain study/back pain research work?

According to the recent back pain news, the British Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will provide £1.1 million to support the 5-year project. To make it work, the scientists will first scan the ancient bones using the most advanced micro-CT scanning, then transform the scans into 3-dimensional images, and finally use the images and computer models to “virtually” evaluate the feasibility and safety of new treatments and implant materials (eg, keyhole spinal surgery, artificial disc replacements, etc) before they are used in patients.


Because each patient’s spine and condition are slightly different, no one treatment works for every patient, which makes treating chronic back pain and developing new treatments challenging. The scientists’ ultimate goal for this back pain study is to use the models to identify the best type of treatment for each individual patient.

What will be the benefits of this back pain study/back pain research?

Chronic back pain is an extremely common medical problem. If successful, this back pain study could improve millions of people’s lives around the world. In addition, results of this back pain study could save pharmaceutical and medical device companies a lot of money by speeding up the clinical trials and using the same model to evaluate many different products.

Along with the leading scientists of the project, British science minister David Willetts showed great interest in this back pain study. He said, “… it’s fantastic that the research is being carried out in the UK. It’s also truly fascinating that old bones and very new technology can come together to deliver benefits for patients.”

How soon will we see results?

According to Dr. Kate Robson Brown from the University of Bristol, a participating university of the study, the computer modeling software should be available for companies to test newly developed treatments and products in the next few years.

This exciting back pain news has been broadcasted and circulated by many media outlets, including BBC news and ScienceDaily.