Do Stem Cells work in the treatment of Knee Arthritis?
When a patient has knee arthritis, in general, treatment is only supportive, until a total knee replacement is performed. Knee Replacements are delayed until a patient reaches a certain age, as we have found that knee replacements performed in younger patients have a higher rate of revision when compared with older patients. This is due to many reasons and is discussed here. Over the last 10 years, Stem Cells have become more popular for researchers who are looking for ways to regenerate cartilage. Cartilage has no blood supply and relies on its bond with the underlying bone to survive. Cartilage has no ability to repair, but the body can produce a structure similar to cartilage, which is actually scar tissue. Scar tissue can fill in small holes in the cartilage, but does not have the same properties as normal joint cartilage (Hyaline Cartilage). Therefore, it is more easily damaged.
For some time, scientists have been using stem cells to generate other parts of the body. The Vacanti Mouse is the famous mouse that had an ear grown on its back. This happened by seeding cow cartilage into an ear shaped mold and then the cartilage grew by itself. This is just one example of how we might be able to grow certain types of cartilage. Whilst this is not necessarily the way we will see Stem Cells being used, it is certainly interesting to see how this develops.
Current evidence suggests that Stem Cells do create cartilage, but it is the difficulty in working out where to lay the cartilage cells that is the problem. There is some research happening now, with some improvements in the growth of cartilage, but the direction of growth is still difficult to control. At this present time, Stem Cells do not provide a safe way of alleviating the pain associated with knee arthritis.
A recent article published on Stem Cells and their application in osteoarthritis suggested that the successful use is at least 5-10 years away. You can read this article by clicking this link:
At the moment, we are awaiting further research before it becomes a treatment modality.
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