With nearly 30 million people in the US affected by osteoarthritis (OA), the condition continues to be among the leading causes of chronic pain and disability. Considering that advances in medical technology have increased overall life expectancy, the number of people living longer and dealing with the effects of OA is expected to increase for the foreseeable future.
Although modern medicine has improved the way most diseases and chronic conditions are diagnosed and treated, OA treatment has not benefited from these advances. As a result, treatment and prevention of OA continue to focus primarily on controlling and minimizing symptoms associated with the condition, not treating or preventing the condition itself. Unfortunately, for many, when symptoms of OA progress to a point where the pain is no longer able to be managed, their options look to surgical replacement of the affected joint.
While there are many contributing factors related to the onset and progression of OA, including obesity, history of trauma, genetics, and heritable and acquired disorders, there also appears to be an association between the onset of OA and a depleted local population of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs).
Considering the apparent relationship between OA and MSCs, Freitag et al. reviewed the reparative pathways, safety, and efficacy of MSC therapy in the treatment of osteoarthritis.
With their ease of harvest and ability to expand into chondrocytes, MSCs have continued to gain interest when exploring various stem cell therapies for the active management of pain and symptoms associated with OA.
Freitag et al. found that preclinical and clinical results of studies of cartilage repair techniques that utilize MSCs, including MSC scaffold transplantation techniques, MSC injectable techniques, MSC as a vehicle for platelet-rich plasma (PRP), and hyaluronic acid (HA) as an active carrier of MSCs, have all shown favorable results in supporting the benefits of MSC for the improvement of function and regeneration of new tissue in those afflicted with OA.
With over 400 active trials currently examining the efficacy of MSCs in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including OA, the safety of utilizing MSC therapy continues to draw interest from the medical community.
Although some early studies appeared to raise the question of abnormal cell growth, and ultimately the safety, associated with MSC therapy, the authors’ systematic review of clinical trials found that, while caution needs to be undertaken when culturing MSCs, the evidence demonstrates MSCs are generally safe for therapeutic use for the treatment of OA.
Freitag et al. conclude that the rapid progression of OA and related conditions demonstrate the need for therapies that repair and prevent these diseases, not just manage pain and related symptoms. As such, the authors feel MSC therapy offers a safe and viable option for the eventual treatment and prevention of OA and calls for further randomized controlled trials to evaluate the most effective applications of MSCs for managing osteoarthritis.
Before the advent of stem cell therapy, patients that were suffering from osteoarthritis were forced to rely on traditional treatment options. These treatments included oral medications, cortisone injections, and surgical intervention. Fortunately, stem cells have shown to be a promising and safe alternative treatment option. Stem cell therapy has the potential to help patients improve their quality of life, reduce pain, and potentially halt the progression of osteoarthritis. Below are the stem cell therapy benefits for Osteoarthritis. They are outlined so you can make an informed decision regarding the best options to manage your osteoarthritis.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are a unique type of cell that is often described as the body’s raw building blocks because they are used to form a variety of other specialized cells. Stem cells can be harvested in a laboratory setting and concentrated for various therapies. They can be used to treat neurodegenerative, autoimmune, and orthopedic ailments.
Two primary types of stem cells that are used more commonly today in medical therapies are known as adult autologous stem cells and umbilical cord-derived stem cells.
Autologous stem cells are derived from harvested adipose (fat) tissue or bone marrow aspirate. Umbilical cord-derived stem cells are retrieved from Wharton’s Jelly, which is a substance that lines the interior of umbilical cords.
How Can Stem Cells Improve Osteoarthritis Symptoms?
While stem cell therapy is still being refined and improved upon, it has shown positive results in clinical trials. In many of these studies, stem cells proved to be a potentially effective therapy for osteoarthritic conditions to offer patients additional options to consider in addition to several traditional options. Below are some improvements reported.
Reduce Pain and Inflammation
Although it is technically not a cure nor can be guaranteed, stem cell therapy has been shown to help relieve some of the most debilitating symptoms that osteoarthritis patients encounter like pain and inflammation.
Chronic pain and inflammation have the potential to diminish a person’s quality of life. These ailments can prevent a person from participating in activities they enjoy and reduce their mobility. Many patients have experienced drastic pain improvement after using stem cell therapy. Some of them saw improvements as soon as one month following their treatment. Post-treatment care is also important for patients to follow to help optimize their outcomes.
As pain and inflammation subside, functionality tends to improve. Stem cell therapy has helped a high percentage of patients to become more independent and resume normal activities. They were able to become less reliant on others and saw improvements in functionality when compared to other treatment options.
Halts Progression of Osteoarthritis
In some trials, stem cell therapy was able to halt the progression of osteoarthritis. While these results were not typical, it does bode well for patients that are struggling with severe osteoarthritic conditions.
If you are suffering from osteoarthritis or other orthopedic conditions, you may want to explore the stem cell therapy benefits for Osteoarthritis. This treatment option might help you improve your quality of life and achieve better outcomes in addition to your current standard of care options. If you would like to learn more about getting started contact us today!
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!
Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, affects over 32 million people in the U.S. each year. Characterized by a progressive degeneration of cartilage resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, and most frequently occurring in the hands, hips, and knees, OA has no pharmacological, biological, or surgical treatment to prevent progression of the condition. The authors of this case report focus specifically on potential treatment options for OA of the knee.
With the emergence of stem cell-based therapies for a multitude of health conditions, stem cells, and specifically mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), have demonstrated immunosuppressive activities that could prove beneficial in supporting the regeneration of cartilage tissue in and around joints in the body.
Research has demonstrated that MSCs are effective in differentiating into essential connective tissues like fat, cartilage, and bone; MSCs have also demonstrated immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects, the ability to self-renew, and plasticity, making MSCs a potentially powerful treatment of OA in the knee (and other parts of the body).
This specific case study details cartilage regeneration in the knee of a 47-year-old woman diagnosed with OA when treated with bone marrow-derived MSC cells. For the course of this treatment, autologous MSCs were collected from bone marrow harvested from the iliac crest. After processing and preparing the MSCs, the sample was confirmed to be free of microbial contamination and was prepared and transplanted into the patient’s knee joint.
Periodic follow-ups with the patient revealed no local or systemic adverse events associated with the MSC transplant procedure. The authors of this case report found that the patient’s functional status of her knee, the number of stairs she could climb, reported pain on a visual analog scale, and walking distance all improved in the two months following the MSC transplant procedure.
Additionally, twelve months after the transplant, the patient demonstrated a positive change in WOMAC (3 to 2), a continued increase in the number of stairs climbed (5 increasing to 50), and visual analog (80 mm to 11 mm). The patient also demonstrated improved gelling (or the amount of time it takes for synovial fluid to thicken as a result of rest) in the knee from 8 minutes to 30 minutes; knee flexion also increased 20° (100° to 120°). Periodic MRIs taken after the transplant procedure demonstrated an extension of the repaired tissue over the subchondral bone.
Mehrabani, et al. conclude that MSC transplantation for treating OA in the knee appears to be a simple, safe, effective, and reliable treatment option that has demonstrated pain relief, improved quality of life, and significantly improved quality of cartilage without hospitalization, pharmaceuticals, or surgery.
Affecting over 52 million people, or nearly 25% of the adult patients, osteoarthritis (OA) continues to be the leading cause of disability for people in the United States. Occurring as a result of the protective cartilage, or articular cartilage, that cushions the ends of the bones breaking down, OA can occur in any joint, but most often causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in the hands, feet, knees, hips, and lower back.
To date, current conventional treatments employing pharmacological treatments have been developed to temporarily address the symptoms (i.e.: relieve pain, stiffness, and swelling) of OA, but have proven ineffective in preventing the onset, progression, or long-term symptoms of the condition. While there are a number of reasons conventional OA therapies have demonstrated themselves to be ineffective, the primary reason is that they do not regenerate the cartilage required to prevent the progressive degenerative process associated with OA.
However, recent studies exploring mesenchymal stem cell-based therapy for OA have demonstrated several potential benefits, including regenerating lost cartilage, slowing cartilage degeneration, pain relief, and improved patient mobility.
Currently, there have been a number of advancements in using cellular-based therapy for OA, including techniques such as autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) and treatment with embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). While all of these treatments have shown promise in the regeneration of cartilage, each has its own issues which limit its effectiveness and/or availability.
Of the cellular based therapies being evaluated, none demonstrate as much promise, with so few drawbacks, as treatment of OA-related cartridge degeneration with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Sourced from a variety of tissue, including adipose, bone marrow, and synovium, MSC have demonstrated to be progenitor cells with the ability to differentiate into cartilage. Because of this, coupled with the low-level of risk and ease of production, MSCs are considered to be a realistic option, holding the best potential treatment of OA.
While each requires further study, a number of studies, both animal and human, exploring the effectiveness of MSCs gathered from adipose tissue, bone marrow, and synovium have all demonstrated varying degrees of success related to regeneration of cartilage lost as a result of OA progression.
As a result of the benefits resulting from previous studies examining the role of MSCs as a cell-based treatment for treating OA-induced cartilage degeneration and because of the effectiveness and high cost associated with current pharmacological-based treatments, the authors of this review call for further clinical study into more innovative and effective modalities to demonstrate the efficacy, safety, and benefits of MSCs in treating patients with OA.
As researchers continue to uncover potential health and medical benefits associated with the regenerative properties of stem cells, there is growing interest in the field of stem cell medicine and specifically for use as an alternative therapeutic treatment of pain.
Of particular recent interest in this area is the differentiation ability of stem cells classified as totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent. Stem cells that can differentiate into and form cells and build organs are known as totipotent stem cells. Pluripotent stem cells are able to differentiate into various types of cells. Multipotent stem cells can differentiate into several limited forms of cells. Of the three different types, only multipotent stem cells are found as adult cells in the body, including in organs, placenta, and bone marrow.
Recently, stem cell transplantation has been used as an alternative treatment for pain associated with severe osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, and intractable musculoskeletal pain that does not respond to traditional or conventional medication.
Although stem cells are thought to be a potential treatment approach for repairing and regrowing cartilage required for treating severe osteoarthritis, to date, regeneration of damaged cartilage has proven to produce limited results. One of the significant issues associated with using stem cells to regenerate cartilage is that cartilage contains no blood vessels or nerves, making cartilage regenerations very difficult once it is damaged. Making the process even more difficult, cartilage regeneration can only occur when the entire layer of cartilage and the layer of bone directly below the cartilage is damaged.
As such, therapeutic stem cell treatment possibilities for osteoarthritis include individual or combination treatment(s) of surgical intervention, tissue engineering, and intra-articulation injection of cultured stem cells; of these possible treatment options, intra-articulation injection of cultured cell therapy would be the preferred method as it is the least minimally invasive and most convenient for clinical use.
There have been mixed reviews as to the effectiveness of these treatments and, to date, there have been no reliable and convincing clinical human students with a high level of evidence conducted specifically on the efficacy in functional improvements and cartilage repair surrounding the application of intra-articular stem cell injection therapy. Although some who have had this treatment expressed improvements.
Stem cells have demonstrated the ability to release neurotrophic factors that enhance the growth and survival potential of neurons, secrete anti-neuroinflammatory cytokines, and provides a cellular source for replacing injured neural cells; this makes the application of stem cells a prime option for regulating and potentially even reversing intractable neuropathic pain.
Studies have confirmed that relieving neuropathic pain is possible through the administering of stem cells, both through intravenous injection and when directly administered to a specific injured site. However, while stem cells do not need to make direct contact with injured cells to produce a neuroprotective effect, stem cells applied directly to an injured site, as opposed to those intravenously injected appeared to better target and relieve neuropathic pain associated with a specific area.
In addition, while a further clinical human study is required, animal models of both diabetic neuropathic pain and spinal cord injury demonstrate that stem cell therapy, and specifically mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), demonstrated improved blood circulation and nerve conduction velocity, reduced pain, and regeneration of the affected nerve.
Intervertebral Disc Disease
Patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease who were treated with MSCs injected directly into the nucleus pulposus, or inner core of the vertebral disc demonstrated a reduction in pain and disability comparable to spinal fusion surgery.
Research has yet to identify an adequate, effective dosage of stem cells and further research on specific stem cell type, dosage, safety, and implantation rate is required. As research into the use of stem cell therapy in pain medicine progresses, it is important to see the development of evidence-based standardized methods of treatment.
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