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Back to Genetics: DNA variant may code for lumbar pain

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1:04pm, June 8, 2005

It's now tempting to blame your aching back on Mom and Dad. Researchers have discovered an inheritable gene variation that may increase susceptibility to lumbar-disk disease, a common precursor of lower-back pain.

The finding may lead to ways to identify patients at risk for lumbar-disk disease and to new drugs for treating it, says the study's lead investigator, Shiro Ikegawa of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Tokyo.

Lumbar-disk disease causes about a third of all back pain, which afflicts 70 to 90 percent of adults worldwide, says Tim Spector of St. Thomas' Hospital in London. Lumbar disks, the pads of cartilage between vertebrae of the lower back, give the spine its flexibility and prevent vertebrae from rubbing together. In the disease, the disks' spongy interior matrix dries out and the disks compress, pinching nerves or placing strain on the spine.

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