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Old bones could aid back pain research

2nd March 2011

Research teams in the UK are developing new treatments for back pain using spines from skeletons of people who died 100 years ago.

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The bones are part of a project using computer modelling and anthropological expertise developed at Leeds University and Bristol University.

The researchers are using 40 skeletons from museums in their research. Science minister David Willetts said: "It's fascinating that old bones and very new technology can come together to deliver benefits for patients."

The project, which will last five years, has received £1.1 million in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Information about different spinal conditions, and variations in bone sizes and shapes, are being used in computer models.

The research team hopes the models can be used in the future to identify the right kind of treatment for each patient.

Project leader Dr Ruth Wilcox, from the University of Leeds, said: "The idea is that a company will be able to come in with a design for a new product and we will simulate how it would work on different spines."

"The good thing about computer models is that we can use them over and over again, so we can test lots of different products on the same model. If we were doing this in a laboratory we would need many new donated spines each time we wanted to test a treatment out."

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