Scientists at a Sheffield university are working on a new gel that could cure a back condition that costs the NHS over £1 billion a year.
A team from Sheffield Hallam University is developing a range of hydrogels that may help remedy degenerative disc disease.
The scientists, based at the biomolecular sciences research centre and materials engineering research institute have secured a £300,000 grant from Arthritis UK, Medical Technologies IKC and the Medical Research Council to begin the next stage of testing.
They hope to further develop the hydrogel based therapies with a view to eventually being able to trial and apply it in a clinical setting.
Disc degeneration affects 80 per cent of the world's population at some point in their lifetime and is found in people as young as 25.
Dr Christine Le Maitre, one of the project leads, said: "Lower back pain is an increasingly prevalent clinical condition and a key contributing factor of it is the degeneration of the intervertebral disc.
"There are three components needed to regenerate the disc: inhibiting the diseased environment, providing mechanical support and delivering stems cells and this hydrogel is the first of its kind to provide all three components needed to regenerate the degenerated disc".
"We are also developing other hydrogels that can promote bone regeneration and increase bone density. This hydrogel could eventually be used to treat trauma injuries and bone fractures as well as osteoporosis."
Professor Chris Sammon, whose team invented the hydrogel, added: "The hydrogel was discovered during another project which involved looking at ways to make responsive materials using clays as crosslinkers.
"Christine suggested this could have the potential to support cell growth, which it does, and we have subsequently optimised formulations for use in different applications.
"The successful capture of these latest grants shows the value in working on cutting edge, multidisciplinary projects and vindicates all the hard work that the team has put in to achieve this."
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