Clinical trial may help back-pain sufferers

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PHOENIX -- Millions of people suffer from lower back pain, but for some it can be depressing and debilitating. A new groundbreaking clinical trial could change the way people treat the pain right here in the Valley.

“I felt a twinge in my back” Patti Koblewski said. “It felt like you just pulled a muscle and two days later my big toe and my right foot went numb.”

Unfortunately for Koblewski, her pain wasn't caused by a simple muscle pull. Instead she was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. It’s a condition that has led to severe lower back pain for the last five years.

“I really can't do anything but walk, so walking is my only outlet,” Koblewski said.

She managed her pain with injections and eventually had surgery. Now she's hoping a new clinical trial here in the Valley will give her long-term relief.

“It's very early, so we don't know exactly what the research is going to yield, but if this works as well as we think it can in human studies, we think it could be revolutionary for patients with lower back pain,” Dr. Paul Lynch explained.

Lynch is with Arizona Pain Specialists. The clinic is one of a few pain practices in the nation participating in a new FDA-cleared adult stem-cell trial on chronic low back pain.

“If they qualify for the study, we literally take the stem cells and we place them directly into the disc in a sterile, surgical environment,” Lynch said.

A single stem cell injection from adult donor bone marrow stem cells is injected into the degenerative disc. The hope is it can regenerate and reverse the damage to the spine.

“We feel like stem cells is another vehicle where we can get people feeling better and maybe get them off their medications and get them back to a higher quality of life,” Lynch said.

Patients will be monitored for three years.

But for chronic low back pain sufferers like Koblewski, just knowing a clinical trial is underway is relief in itself.

"When you have a back injury there is a lot of things that you can't do anymore,” Koblewski said. “This new clinical trial is going to potentially provide an opportunity to hopefully heal that disc and entirely avoid surgery.”

The trial is sponsored by Mesoblast Limited. They're looking for 100 patients. To see if you’re a candidate, log onto