Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is estimated to affect over 500 million people worldwide. A result of the progressive deterioration of the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones, OA most commonly affects the hands, knees, hips, and spine and is characterized by pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility in and around the affected areas.
Without a known way to treat and/or prevent OA from occurring, current conventional treatment of the condition typically involves a combination of prescription and OTC drugs, physical therapy, and lifestyle adjustments in an effort to treat and slow the progression of the symptoms associated with OA.
As the beneficial applications of stem cells continue to emerge, and considering their ability to replace and repair cells and tissues throughout the body, researchers believe that they can be used to treat joint disorders, including OA. The majority of the current stem cell therapies being investigated for use in treating OA use mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), primarily due to their multilineage differentiation towards cell types in the joints and for their immunoregulatory functions.
In this review, Kong et al. provide detailed information on OA and MSCs, share updated information on pre-clinical and clinical trials and related applications of MSCs, and discuss additional efforts on cell-based therapy for treating OA and other joint and bone diseases.
Several preclinical models have investigated MSCs in treating OA and have demonstrated success in generating cartilage from MSCs. In addition, several animal models have demonstrated the beneficial effect of MSCs on cartilage, including protecting existing cartilage, repairing defects of joint cartilage, regenerating and enhancing cartilage, and even preventing OA.
Additionally, there have been several animal models evaluating the effects of intra-articular injection of MSCs for treating OA with researchers noting marked regeneration of tissue and decreased degeneration of articular cartilage.
Clinical trials using MSCs to treat human joint cartilage defects have found that MSCs could be used to repair cartilage defects, improve joint function, reduce pain, and have demonstrated the potential to use MSC therapy for cartilage repair and regeneration as a way to reduce signs and symptom commonly associated with OA.
Although these studies have demonstrated the tremendous potential associated with the use of MSCs for treating OA, they have also highlighted some potential concerns associated with MSC-based therapy. These concerns include determining the specific number and type of MSCs best suited for treating OA, a better understanding of the timing and delivery strategies for the administration of MSCs, and identifying the stages of disease best suited for MSC therapy.
Further concerns highlighted by the authors include the potential of genetic influences when using autologous MSC cells for treatment, the potential for the overall quality of MSC cells used in older patients to be too low, and the overall safety of stem cell therapy as a therapeutic treatment option for OA.
Despite the concerns identified above, Kong et al. conclude that the advancement of regenerative medicine and innovative stem cell technology offers a unique and exciting opportunity to treat OA.
Source: “Role of mesenchymal stem cells in osteoarthritis treatment – NCBI.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5822967/.