Osteoarthritis is a very common joint disorder. Due to age and normal wear and tear on the joints, the cartilage that protects the joint begins to break down, causing the bone to rub together which leads to pain and swelling in the joints. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, and up until now, many patients feel that surgery is their only option to manage the symptoms.
However, recently orthopaedic investigators have been studying the effects of periodic injections to the knee of stem cells from synovium, a thin membrane covering the inside of the joint. Nobutake Ozeki from Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan, along with his colleagues, injected these stem cells into rats with osteoarthritis. What they found is that these injections delayed cartilage degeneration. In theory, these injections could provide osteoarthritis patients with relief from the often debilitating effects of the disease.
“Stem cells can change their character according to the environments and produce a variety of growth factors, “ Ozeki explained. “We previously revealed that stem cells from synovium have advantages for their high growth and cartilage differentiation abilities.” The goal of this research is to provide patients with an alternative to surgery. “We want to improve patient’s joint condition without surgical interventions and using stem cells is one possible alternative treatment.”
To continue their research, Ozeki and his team plan to try this therapy on more severe osteoarthritis models in which cartilage degeneration has already begun. “In the future” Ozeki added, “we want to start a clinical trial to delay osteoarthritis progression.”
Ozeki’s research was recently presented at the Orthopaedic Research Society’s (ORS) 2013 Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Founded in 1954, the Orthopaedic Research Society strives to be the world’s leading forum for the dissemination of new musculoskeletal research findings. The ORS is made up of over 2,800 clinicians (including orthopaedic surgeons and veterinarians), engineers and biologists.