Intervertebral disc degeneration is characterized by progressive loss of disc height related to loss of water content and proteoglycans. Key mechanisms involved in this process include inflammatory and mechanical stress. It is biologically plausible that CAM therapies, such as yoga or nutritional supplements, may exert their beneficial actions on the spine through these pathways. The fundamental goals of this research are to investigate the mechanisms behind the effects of motion based therapies, such as yoga, and oral supplements, including glusosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids, on matrix balance in the intervertebral disc through use of both in vitro and in vivo systems. The immediate impact of this work is in demonstrating the biologic effects of mechanical loading and nutritional supplements on the intervertebral disc using cell culture and animal model systems. This will provide us with a powerful experimental platform with which we can test the effect of various additional loading paradigms as well as nutritional supplements on disc matrix homeostasis. Upon elucidation of the effected biochemical pathways, future studies will correlate the model systems to human spine kinematics relevant to CAM motion based therapies. This will result in the ability to translate these findings into more mechanistically directed clinical studies and rationally targeted therapeutics, which represents the long term goal of the candidate. This work and the expertise gained through the proposed training plan will serve as initial building blocks for a research program in which CAM questions can be addressed at the molecular, tissue, and whole organism level.
In a CDC report from 2004, low back pain was identified as the most common condition for which patients sought alternative treatments such as yoga and oral supplements. To utilize these interventions most effectively, it is critical to understand how these therapies are facilitating their effects. The goals of this research are to understand the effects of motion based therapies, such as yoga, and oral supplements, including glusosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids, on the cartilage of the spine.
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