A new biologic patch that is activated by a person’s natural motion could be the key to fixing herniated discs in people’s backs. The tension-activated repair patches (TARPs) provide controlled release of an anti-inflammatory molecule called anakinra from microcapsules over time, which helped discs in a large animal model regain the tension they need to reverse herniation and prevent further degeneration.

Key to the TARP is having the body’s natural mechanics work to activate the release of anti-inflammatory molecules from the microcapsules within the patch. While they would theoretically still work if a person lay totally still for months, the reality of the disc tissue environment is that movement is its natural state.

And because the patch makes it as if there was never a hole to begin with, its application could have significant effects on the prevention of worsening pain related to disc degeneration. While this research was primarily “proof of principle,” moving this treatment closer to the clinic will require longer trials in large animal models. (Image credit: Penn Medicine)

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