MANHASSET, N.Y., Nov. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research scientist Nadeen Chahine, PhD, was awarded a five-year, $1.8 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) to explore inflammation's role in degenerative disc diseases of the spine. Dr. Chahine's study, "Mechanobiology of Inflammation in Intervertebral Disc," will observe molecule and receptor interactions to determine the triggers of degenerated intervertebral discs (IVD) in the spine. IVD is a condition where the rubbery discs in the spine begin to shrink and lose integrity. It can cause debilitating pain in the lower back, buttocks and thighs, which can radiate to other parts of the body and make normal activities such as sitting, bending, lifting objects and twisting very painful. Current treatments include, physical therapy, pain medication and in extreme cases, surgery, however none of these methods completely eliminate the pain. The study will follow the high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) molecule, a protein expressed by dying or stressed cells. Dr. Chahine notes that this protein could be a trigger for inflammation and disc degeneration. "Disability and pain stemming from degenerated intervertebral discs affects more than 40 percent of adults in the US and costs more than $100 billion annually," said Dr. Chahine, a biomedical engineer, whose research is specific to understanding how inflammation changes the disc's ability to bear load. If proven correct, her research could lead to alternate treatments to slow down or possibly reverse the degeneration of spinal discs. "I'm extremely grateful for NIAMS' support to embark on this study, which brings together bioengineers, clinicians and biologists to explore a unique combination of inflammation and mechanobiology in this common condition that is understudied," she said. "It is our hope that this study will get us closer to a treatment of disc degeneration."