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Serum biomarkers for Modic changes in patients with chronic low back pain



Lumbar Modic change (MC) can serve as a diagnostic marker as well as an independent source of chronic low back pain (CLBP). This study aimed to test for the existence of serum biomarkers in CLBP patients with MC.


Age- and sex-matched CLBP patients with confirmed MC on lumbar MRI (n = 40) and pain-free controls (n = 40) were assessed. MC was classified into M1, predominating M1, predominating M2 and M2. MC volumes were calculated. Fasting blood samples were assessed for inflammatory mediators, signalling molecules, growth factors and bone turnover markers. Serum concentrations of 46 biomarkers were measured.


Median concentrations of interleukin (IL)-15 (p < 0.001), IL-8 (p < 0.001), tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha (p < 0.001), Eotaxin-1 (p < 0.05), Eotaxin-3 (p < 0.001), monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1 (p < 0.05), macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1alpha (p < 0.01), TEK receptor tyrosine kinase (Tie)-2 (p < 0.001), vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1 (p < 0.001), RANTES (p < 0.001), C telopeptide of type I collagen (CTX)-1 (p < 0.001), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-C (p < 0.001), VEGF-D (p < 0.05), fms-related tyrosine kinase (Flt)-1 (p < 0.01) and intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 (p < 0.01) were significantly higher among controls. IL-1sRII (23.2 vs. 15.5 ng/ml, p < 0.001) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)-1 (169 vs. 105 pg/ml, p < 0.01) concentrations were significantly higher among patients. Type or volume of MC was not associated with biomarker concentrations.


This is the first study to assess the blood serum biomarker profile in individuals with CLBP with MC. Several biomarkers were suppressed, while two markers (IL-1sRII and HGF) were elevated among MC patients, irrespective of MC type or size, with CLBP compared with asymptomatic controls.

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Correspondence to Dino Samartzis.

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Karppinen, J., Koivisto, K., Ketola, J. et al. Serum biomarkers for Modic changes in patients with chronic low back pain. Eur Spine J 30, 1018–1027 (2021).

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  • Serum
  • Biomarkers
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Modic change
  • Zoledronic acid
  • Chronic low back pain