Scientists at the University of Manchester believe they might have finally developed a treatment for chronic back pain.
Chronic lower back pain can become a problem for a large portion of society, but it is hoped that a new biomaterial implant - administered in the form of a jab - could alleviate their troubles.
The ailment is most commonly caused by degeneration of the intervertebral disc and researchers have been toiling for years to find a way of repairing lower back wear and tear.
Results published in the journal Soft Matter show that they have now discovered how to permanently replace the workings of the invertebral disc.
Back pain is believed to affect around 80% of people at some point in their lives, with it being the most common cause of job-related disability in the United States.
The University of Manchester cross-faculty team have been experimenting with microgel particles, which are swellable nanoscopic polymer particles, for a number of years.
They have demonstrated previously that an injectable fluid of these particles could transform into a gel that restored the mechanical properties of damaged model intervertebral discs.
Lead researcher Dr Brian Saunders, of the School of Materials, and his team have now succeeded in linking the microgel particles together to form injectable durable, elastic gels capable of sustaining large permanent changes in shape without breaking.
Dr Saunders said: “Our team has made a breakthrough through innovative materials design that brings the prospect of an injectable gel for treating degeneration of the intervertebral disc a step closer.”