A scientist at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), Chitra Dahia (New York, USA) has received two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants totalling $6 million for translational research aimed at understanding the root cause of disc degeneration and chronic back pain in order to develop treatment options that do not rely on addictive pain-relieving medications.
The funding will support Dahia’s Spine Development and Regeneration Lab to study the potential of two important developmental molecules in the reversal of age-related intervertebral disc (IVD) pathologies and in the treatment of chronic back pain.
“Approximately 70% of the US population is affected by chronic back pain, negatively impacting longevity and quality of life,” said Dahia. “There is currently no treatment available for disc degeneration, which is a big concern when you look at the world’s aging population. With the lack of treatment options, people can become dependent on strong pain relievers such as opioids.”
Lionel Ivashkiv, chief scientific officer at HSS, added: “It is an incredible honour for Chitra Dahia to receive these two NIH grants. Being awarded an NIH grant is the highest metric of scientific quality and impact. The application itself is peer-reviewed and quite rigorous.”
Dahia received the first five-year grant for $2.8 million from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to study the role of the sonic hedgehog/Brachyury axis in the maintenance of the postnatal IVD. She was then awarded the National Institute of Aging five-year grant for $3.3 million to study the role of developmental signalling pathways in the maintenance of spinal discs.
Dahia’s Spine Development and Regeneration Lab at HSS concentrates on understanding the role of key developmental cell signalling pathways and molecules in the development and homeostasis of various musculoskeletal tissues including the IVD, spinal column, growth plate, and tendon. The lab’s primary focus is on IVD development and maintenance and whether developmental pathways and molecules can prevent age-related disc pathologies and associated neurological symptoms or regenerate the degenerated discs.
“These scientific discoveries can directly impact future directions of musculoskeletal research to best improve clinical outcomes,” concludes. Dahia.