Osteoarthritis of the knee is a disease that affects thousands of people all over the world. It can be particularly debilitating and as the cartilage from the knee joint diminishes, walking, running, standing and moving all become difficult and significantly reduce quality of life for the sufferer. However, scientists believe they may have a solution to the problem before too long – and it’s a lot easier than undergoing a replacement.
A trial at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital Foundation Trust in Oswestry, Shropshire is testing whether or not the injection of stem cells into the knee early on in the disease can actually prevent it from worsening and effectively, cure it.
Since the 1990s, cartliage cells called chondrocytes have been used to repair small areas of damage but this is not effective enough to entirely cure the disease. Therefore, using stem cells could provide the answer.
The trial occurring at the Hospital Foundation Trust will see 100 osteoarthritis patients divided into three groups. The first will receive injections of just chondrocytes, the second a combination of stem cells and chondrocytes and the third will receive only stem cells.
The Daily Mail reports that Professor James Richaardson, a consultant helping to run the trial has said, “No one knows if stem cells, chondrocytes, or the combination is best.
“For small patches of cartilage damage chondrocytes work well – with 80 per cent of patients who have this treatment showing improvement. However they don’t work well for bigger areas or where there are two surfaces of cartilage that have worn down.
“There is some evidence that combing these cells (stem and cartilage) is the best option.
‘If you grow the two together in a laboratory, the stem cells seem to help the chondrocytes.
“Stem cells have a bit of an anti-inflammatory action – and when you put just chondrocytes in there is often some inflammation left – and it may be that the stem cells turn into cartilage cells as well”.
If all goes to plan and they find the outcome they’re hoping for, there should be a long term solution available to us before long.
Tell us, would you try this treatment if it became available? What is the worst part of osteoarthritis?