Featured Investigators


Kazuhito Morioka, MD, PhD - Nociplastic spinal cord-muscle loop in degenerative disc disease (DDD)


Figure: (Left) A mouse model of lumbar disc injury-mediated paraspinal muscle degeneration (Michael et al, N Am Spine Soc J. 2021). (Upper right) The interdisciplinary collaborative team-based approach. (Bottom right) Hypothetical nociplastic spinal-muscle loop in DDD (green indicates the acute phase, yellow indicates the subacute phase, and red indicates the chronic phase of DDD).


‘Nociplastic’ from “nociceptive plasticity” indicates a functional change in nociception due to increased sensitivity to pain in the central nervous system regardless of the obvious damage, disorder, or inflammation neurologically. Nociplastic changes play a role in the chronicity of pain resulting from the musculoskeletal system as well as paraspinal muscle degeneration due to the pain. However, the exact cause-effect relationships are still not fully characterized. From both neuronal and musculoskeletal perspectives, this proposed study aims to elucidate the longitudinal nociplastic mechanism in degenerative disc disease (DDD) for accelerating research on low back pain (LBP) supported by the CCMBM Pilot and Feasibility Grant Program.
This study enables our interdisciplinary collaborative team from Dr. Adam Ferguson’s laboratory (Neurological Surgery) and Dr. Brian Feeley & Dr. Xuhui Liu's laboratory (Orthopaedic Surgery) to address the fundamental issues regarding degenerative spinal disorders by leveraging the strength and expertise of each lab, allowing a more rigorous and comprehensive approach. Using a mouse model of lumbar disc degeneration with paraspinal muscle degeneration, we are exploring nociplastic changes involving apoptosis and trophic factors in the spinal cord and paraspinal muscle to identify distinct degenerative features contributing to the progression of DDD by biochemical analysis, microscopic analysis, behavioral analysis, and multivariate analysis. Findings from this study will help foster a better understanding of the degenerative pathology throughout the acute and chronic phases of DDD.

Headshot of Kazuhito Morioka, MD, PhD

Kazuhito Morioka, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery


Research interests: Central nervous system disorders (spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury), musculoskeletal system disorders (bone fracture, bone pain, low back pain), and both system disorders (polytrauma, chronic low back pain)



Back to Top^