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The Latest in Spine Research Treatments Experts to Convene at Drexel Symposium

October 4, 2007

The Latest in Spine Research, Treatments: Experts to Convene at Drexel Symposium
Twenty percent of Americans experience lower back pain annually, and more than 60 percent experience it sometime in their lives.

About 100 leading Greater Philadelphia spine researchers from university, clinical and corporate backgrounds will gather to hear the latest research developments on spine mechanics, materials and pain relief Oct. 9 at a Drexel University symposium.

The third annual Spine Research Symposium is organized by the Philadelphia Spine Research Society (PSRS), founded in 2005 by Dr. Michele Marcolongo, associate professor in Drexel’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The PSRS unites research, clinical and industrial members in advancing the treatment of spine disorders and understanding the behavior of the spine.

Dr. James Iatridis, associate professor in the University of Vermont’s Department of Orthopaedic Rehabilitation and Mechanical Engineering, will deliver the keynote address on intervertebral disc degeneration and repair (9:15 to 10:30 a.m.).

Experts will then present their research in spine tissue mechanics and materials. Some experts believe the origin of some pain is mechanical in nature while others develop new materials to treat spine pain, Marcolongo said. Drexel researchers have developed a novel nucleus replacement technology for the intervertebral disc using hydrogel biomaterials. The incorporation of biomaterials study in the development of spinal treatments in the past 10 years has helped produce new medical device options that are alternative solutions to spinal fusion.

Other experts will present research in spine surgery and spine regenerative medicine, which takes degenerative tissues of the spine and regenerates them by combining cells with biomaterial scaffolds.

A Drexel collaboration with Penn, Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Delaware focuses on diagnosing spine degeneration, which is difficult to diagnose noninvasively, particularly in the disease’s early stages, Marcolongo said. The universities are developing noninvasive technologies — using innovative techniques with nuclear magnetic resonance to better identify molecular states in the disc — to help doctors diagnose degeneration, even in its early stages. (Presentation: noon to 12:15 p.m.)

Dr. Beth A. Winkelstein, associate professor of bioengineering at Penn, will present her research on pain caused by the mechanical loading of the spine and treatment of the pain using hydrogel-based local drug delivery. The Penn researcher is among just a few professors nationwide studying the effects of mechanical loading in relation to pain generation, Marcolongo said. (Presentation: 2:45 to 3 p.m.)

The symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the William F. Mitchell Auditorium in Drexel’s Edmund D. Bossone Research Enterprise Center, on Market Street between 32nd and 31st streets.

The schedule of topics is available at:


News media contact: Brian Rossiter, Drexel News Bureau 215-895-2705, 267-228-5599 (cell) or

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