Osteoarthritis (OA) is a condition in which the natural cushioning between joints breaks down eventually leading to bone-on-bone contact, pain, and loss of flexibility. OA affects roughly 30 million people in the U.S., many of whom are over the age of 60. As the U.S. population ages, the number of people with OA will likely increase. While the condition can affect any joint, it’s particularly common in the knees. In this article, we will talk about a very common question, can stem cells help Osteoarthritis?

Stem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis

While lifestyle modifications and certain medical interventions can help reduce symptoms of Osteoarthritis, once the condition progresses significantly, joint replacement surgery may be the only option for treatment. 

Recently, researchers from Krembil Research Institute, University Health Network in Toronto published results for using stem cells to treat Osteoarthritis in the journal STEM CELLS Translational. Their goal was to determine whether mesenchymal stem cells, which can develop into specialized cells such as muscle, bone, and cartilage, could replace knee cartilage.

The researchers extracted stem cells from the bone marrow of 12 participants. They received one of three dosages in the knee and were then studied over the following year. Participants received routine MRI scans and had inflammatory biomarkers measured. They were also questioned about their symptoms. By the end of the 12 months, participants exhibited a considerable reduction in pain and an increase in quality of life. 

All participants tolerated the doses well, with no serious adverse effects. Those who had the highest doses of stem cells experienced the best outcomes, including a significant reduction in inflammation. The anti-inflammatory effects of the stem cells are believed to be an important factor in the decreased pain levels.While the study was limited in scope, it does appear to be a stepping stone for further advancements into stem cell therapy. Moreover, this is not the first clinical research to look into the potential of stem cells for treating OA. A larger 2015 study showed that the treatment could be a feasible alternative to surgery for OA, while an even larger 2016 study showed similar outcomes. Should further studies show similar results, it’s a likely possibility that stem cell therapy could become an effective treatment for OA. If you are interested in learning more, contact a care coordinator today!

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