One Injection of Stem Cells may Cure Crippling Knee Arthritis

For individuals who suffer debilitating arthritis in their knees, investigators report in a small study that just one injection of stem cells can decrease pain and inflammation.

The idea is experimental: Extract stem cells from an individual’s own body fat cells are well-known for their capability to differentiate and perform any variety of regenerative functions and are injected directly into the impaired knee joint.

“While the objective of this small research was to assess the safety of using a sufferer’s own stem cells to deal with osteoarthritis of the knee, it also demonstrated that one group of sufferers experienced improvements in pain and function,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was not engaged in the study.

“Actually, most of the sufferers who had formerly scheduled total knee replacement surgery chose to cancel the surgery,” Atala noted.

“These outcomes are encouraging, and it will be exciting to see if these developments are observed in larger groups of study individuals,” he added.

Atala is editor-in-chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, the journal that recently presented the outcomes of the 18-patient study.

The French and German investigators point out that osteoarthritis is the very common musculoskeletal disorder among adults, what is known as “wear-and-tear” chronic problem that usually affects the knee joint.

Typified by the on-going breakdown of the cartilage that link joints and bones, the progressively degenerative condition finally gives rise to serious inflammation, significant pain and usually crippling disability.

As per the Arthritis Foundation, osteoarthritis possibility is driven by genetics; obesity; injuries and joint overuse; other types of arthritis; and metabolic conditions that can throw individual’s iron or growth hormone levels out of whack.

Study author Dr. Christian Jorgense  said

No therapy can stop osteoarthritis’ progress, and “no treatment is capable to rejuvenate cartilage tissue”.

To discover the possibilities of stem cell therapy, the research authors concentrated on 18 French and German men and women, older 50 to 75, all of whom had trouble with serious knee osteoarthritis for at least a year prior to joining the study.

In between April 2012 to December 2013, all of the sufferers initially went through liposuction to draw out fat-derived samples of a particular type of stem cell. The investigators observed that these specific stem cells have been proven to have immune-boosting and anti-scarring properties, along with the capability to safeguard against cell “stress” and death.

Six sufferers obtained a single “low-dose” injection of their own stem cells directly into their knee. Another six obtained a “medium-dose” injection, involving a bit more than 4 times the amount of stem cells, while the remaining 6 obtained a “high-dose” injection packed with approximately 5 times as many stem cells as the medium-dose group.

After 6 months, the research team identified that all three groups demonstrated improvements in terms of pain, function and movability.

However, only those in the low-dose group were identified to have “statistically considerable” developments in terms of both knee pain and function recovery.

Apart from one case of chest pain (about 3 months following the injection), only a few sufferers experienced minor side effects.

The study team concluded that the stem cell therapy outcomes were “very encouraging.” The view was echoed by Atala, who recommended that “the study reveals yet another possible treatment using stem cells.”

Simultaneously, Jorgensen and his colleagues stressed that more study with more sufferers will be required before the approach can be regarded a breakthrough.

That effort has already started, with a next two-year trial now ongoing including 150 subject at 10 various clinical centers throughout Europe.