Tech Sites create, test, and distribute technology and methods to test, quantify, and relieve chronic lower back pain.
Brigham Young University
Anton Bowden, PhD, PE
At its fundamental core, the spine was built to move, and the way it moves is a direct window into spinal health. Our research team is dedicated to improving chronic lower back pain (cLBP) outcomes through the use of unique, inexpensive, screen-printable, elastomer-based nano-composite piezoresponsive sensors that we invented, and which we are integrating into a SPInal Nanosensor Environment (SPINE Sense System). By identifying and characterizing the mechanical phenotypes of dysfunctional spinal motion, our technology will provide an objective, quantitative platform for diagnosis, monitoring, and follow-up assessment of cLBP which can be implemented both in the clinic, as well as during activities of daily living.
Conor Walsh, PhD
Harvard University and Boston University are developing robotic apparel to reduce the risk of back injury in occupational settings where workers perform physically strenuous tasks as well as aid in recovery for individuals with lower back pain (LBP) undergoing rehabilitation. The technology integrates motion sensors, electromechanical actuation components, and adaptive control algorithms into lightweight and comfortable functional apparel that aids the movement of the wearer. Laboratory-based biomechanics experiments with healthy subjects will evaluate the ability of the device to reduce muscular exertion and fatigue during lifting tasks and studies with individuals with LBP will assess the technology’s ability to integrate and assist with occupational therapy procedures.
Massachusetts General Hospital
Hsiao-Ying Monica Wey, PhD
Histone deacetylase (HDAC) enzymes are key components regulating gene expression in response to life experience and have recently been associated with the development and maintenance of pain. Using neuroimaging techniques, we will evaluate HDAC density in the brain of lower back pain patients to determine if HDAC is a biomarker capable of differentiating subtypes of low back pain and monitoring progression of pain.
Ohio State University
William Marras, PhD, CPE
The Ohio State University Spine Research Institute’s effort aims to develop and validate a digital health platform that phenotypes patients based on quantitative evaluations of spine motion, patient reported outcomes, Electronic Medical Records, and other available meta data. Collectively, the ability of this platform to phenotype patients will enable clinical decision-making on personalized treatments to improve low back pain patient outcomes.
University of California San Francisco
Aaron Fields, PhD, Roland Krug, PhD
Endplate pathology commonly associates with chronic low back pain (cLBP), but methods for identifying cLBP patients in whom endplate pathology is a contributing factor and for selecting patients for non-addictive and minimally invasive treatments remain qualitative, subjective, and underdeveloped. The overarching goal of this project is to further develop and validate novel, quantitative MRI measures of endplate pathologies. Accomplishing this goal will improve diagnosis of endplate pathologies in cLBP patients and provide tools that would be broadly applicable for identifying phenotypes, discovering pain mechanisms, uncovering treatment targets, and selecting patients for treatment.
University of California San Francisco
Sharmila Majumdar, PhD
While the roles of disc composition, vertebral endplate integrity, bone remodeling at the facet joints, nerve inflammation, muscle composition, area and spinal stability in chronic lower back pain (cLBP), have been extensively studied, more often in isolation, etiology of cLBP often involves multiple sources, requiring assessment of metrics from multi-system and multi-modal medical imaging data. Long imaging times (especially with back pain) for quantitative imaging and non-standardized image interpretation are long-standing challenges in the field today, limiting the clinical translational utility of medical imaging. The current variations in derived metrics would be significantly impacted by automated decision support tools. This Technology Site at UCSF will undertake technical development of an integrated platform to provide accelerated quantitative imaging, standardized quantitation of degenerative characteristics, spinal deformities, musculoskeletal models, and the ability to enhance their relationships with Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs), with functional brain metrics.
University of Utah
Viola Rieke, PhD, Lubdha Shah, MD
The Focused Ultrasound Group as part of the Utah Center of Advanced Imaging and Research aims to improve patient care by exploring, developing, and translating new, less invasive treatment options using focused ultrasound (FUS) technology. The goal of our project is to develop a completely non-invasive, precise and durable treatment option for low back pain with FUS neuromodulation of the dorsal root ganglion. The lower risk associated with FUS, compared to more invasive procedures, will result in fast translation to humans and has the potential to replace current invasive or systemically detrimental treatment modalities.