In recent years, there have been a number of advances in stem cell research and in the various ways that these cells can be best employed to improve the health of patients. One of the medical areas that shows promise for stem cell therapies is orthopedics, with stem cell therapies being developed to help with tissue, cartilage, and bone repair. A recent review by Anish Majumdar and colleagues conveyed the progress that has been made specifically in the use of stem cells for the repair of cartilage in osteoarthritis.
Patients with osteoarthritis experience degeneration of their connective tissues, which progresses as they get older. While osteoarthritis is often diagnosed in older patients, athletes also often endure osteoarthritis after injuring themselves while playing sports. In osteoarthritis, tissue known as articular cartilage is particularly susceptible to injury and unfortunately does not heal as well as other tissues because it does not have the vasculature required to supply the tissue with the nutrients required for significant growth and recovery.
When articular cartilage is damaged, surgery is often employed in an attempt to correct the damage, and pharmaceuticals are sometimes prescribed for discomfort. However, these interventions do not tend to achieve satisfying results. Because bone marrow stromal cells, or bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, naturally differentiate into the cells that make up cartilage, it has been suggested that these stem cells could improve outcomes for those with osteoarthritis.
These particular stem cells have other advantages, including that their isolation is relatively simple and that they easily proliferate, adds to their attractiveness as a candidate for cartilage repair. Their ability to suppress the immune system and prevent inflammation makes them more likely than many other cell types to be safe when added to the cartilage. As such, according to this review, a number of researchers have reported that their injections of these stem cells in patients with osteoarthritis have not caused any problems related to safety.
These findings include stem cells leading to improvements in clinical symptoms and quality of life in those with osteoarthritis, as well as the filling of the defect area and reduction in pain.
Researchers have also reported that these stem cells are effective from a therapeutic standpoint when administered to osteoarthritis patients. A number of specific findings on the success of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in cartilage repair demonstrate that stem cells could revolutionize therapeutic strategies for this type of tissue damage. These findings include stem cells leading to improvements in clinical symptoms and quality of life in those with osteoarthritis, as well as the filling of the defect area and reduction in pain.
See why more and more athletes are turning to stem cell therapy here.
Gupta, P.K., Das, A.K., Chullikana, A., & Majumdar, A.S. (2012). Mesenchymal stem cells for cartilage repair in osteoarthritis. Stem Cell Research & Therapy, 3(25), 1-9.