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.

Source:  (n.d.). The Healing Effect of Bone Marrow-Derived Stem Cells … – NCBI – NIH.; from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5003953/

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