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.
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