More than half a million people in the U.S. receive a knee replacement every year. Within just a decade, that number is projected to rise to three million. The reasons for this rapid increase span far and wide: factors like the quest to lead healthier, more active lifestyles and increasing obesity rates could all play a role in the uptick in conditions like arthritis, which manifests in the form of unrelenting knee pain. A solution researchers have been working on is stem cell therapy for knees.
Osteoarthritis, in particular, is a common condition known to affect the knees. It’s the most prevalent type of arthritis and impacts millions of individuals across the globe. In this form of arthritis, the cartilage at the end of the bones which serves as cushioning wears away. Osteoarthritis may develop over time as a result of general wear and tear, but it could also be triggered by knee injuries such as tendon damage, fracture, or a ligament tear.
Traditionally, treatments for damaged knees have included temporary fixes, such as physical therapy or medications, as well as surgical intervention. Patients have understandably yearned for a fix that’s both long-lasting and less invasive – a solution which has heretofore seemed impossible.
Yet, researchers have also been working hard to find an answer to the knee pain epidemic. And, it appears that they’ve found it in the form of stem cell therapy.
Stem Cell Therapy for Knees
A number of studies on stem cell therapy for knee pain have been performed within recent years. Researchers have refined their approaches, using various forms and combinations of stem cell preparations to determine which yield the best results, thus improving outcomes over time. Results indicate that while the joints continue to deteriorate naturally, knees that receive stem cell therapy are still in better condition than they were before – even five years later.
Stem cells have the ability to self-renew and transform into virtually any other cell type with specialized functions. Experts believe their healing effects are a result of their power to change into cartilage cells, minimize the inflammation associated with arthritis, and release powerful cytokines to control pain and slow the degenerative process.
Injuries and degenerative conditions in joints like the knees are particularly difficult to treat. In these areas, the blood supply is limited, and the body’s natural regenerative capabilities are therefore restricted. Regenerative medicine therapy such as stem cell treatment can essentially turbocharge the healing process, spurring self-recovery when injected at the site of the damage. Thus, these treatments hold promise for alleviating conditions that have not responded well to previous therapies but significantly impact the daily routines of individuals experiencing them.