09/25/2012 05:12 pm ET

Lumbar Disc Degeneration, Common Cause Of Back Pain, Linked With Gene Variant PARK2

Got back pain? Your genes may be partly to blame, a new study suggests.

Researchers at King's College London have identified a variant in the PARK2 gene that seems to be associated with a common cause of back pain, called lumbar disc degeneration. The finding means that there may be a way to turn off this gene through lifestyle factors, they said.

"Further work by disc researchers to define the role of this gene will, we hope, shed light on one of most important causes of lower back pain," study researcher Dr. Frances Williams, a senior lecturer in the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology, said in a statement. "It is feasible that if we can build on this finding and improve our knowledge of the condition, we may one day be able to develop new, more effective treatments for back pain caused by this common condition."

Scientists were able to identify the gene by looking at the genome-wide association data of 4,600 people. They found a link between the PARK2 gene and lumbar disc generation, and published their findings in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.

The researchers noted in the study that this specific back condition gets more common as people age. They described what exactly occurs when someone has lumbar disc degeneration:

Discrete biochemical, histological, metabolic and functional changes occur in LDD, such that discs become dehydrated, lose disc height and there is accompanying outgrowth of osteophytes from the vertebral body margin.

They also pointed out that the condition seems to be inherited in more than half of cases. Indeed, a 2006 study in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery pointed out that for years people thought that lumbar disc degeneration was caused by workplace physical loading or physical exertion. But recently, twin studies have shown that genetics may in fact play a large role.



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