Recent scientific studies have looked at the use of adult stem cells taken from fat and bone marrow for treating patients who suffer from knee osteoarthritis, with promising results.
Researchers have concluded that not only does the therapy produce an improvement in symptoms, but healing and regeneration of cartilage might be taking place.
Director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Maryland, Dr. Nathan Wei, has noted that the options for helping patients with osteoarthritis used to be limited to simply helping relieving symptoms. Now, however — thanks to stem cell therapy — he says medicine is entering an era where therapies are available that “may also rebuild lost cartilage.”
Knee osteoarthritis (commonly called OA or “wear and tear” arthritis) is a very common condition, affecting over 20 million Americans. For patients who have osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the joint has been damaged or is starting to get lost — and bone has started grinding against bone.
As a result, a reactive bony overgrowth is produced that in turn creates significant pain and limited mobility. Being active makes the pain even worse, though it is still usually present when patents are resting as well.
Osteoarthritis is particularly common in patients who are overweight or over age 45. Trauma can accelerate it, so younger patients may also develop osteoarthritis.
Traditionally, knee osteoarthritis has been treated with steroids or hyaluronic acid injections. Unfortunately this usually only gives temporary relief. Many patients eventually face going through total knee replacement surgery. This procedure results in a great deal of post-operative pain and requires a prolonged recovery.
However, stem cell treatment means it is frequently possible to avoid going through a major procedure. This treatment uses cells taken from the body in order to regenerate the joint tissues, thus alleviating pain and dysfunction. Since it’s done on an in-office outpatient basis, there’s not even any hospital say required.
According to Dr. Wei, administering adult stem cells carefully may be able to restore the lost cartilage which is causing the osteoarthritis, thus treating the underlying problem rather than the symptoms. He observes that this phenomenon has already been shown in “multiple animal models,” but until recently it was only described in humans in “anecdotal reports.” Now, however, he states that researchers are performing clinical studies which are “much better controlled” as well as “more scientifically valid.”
Wei added that stem cell treatment did not just positively affect arthritis through the transformation of stem cells into cartilage — it’s also a consequence of the way stem cells release proteins which attract other healing cells into the affected area. It’s a phenomenon known as the “paracrine” effect.
“We are excited,” he said, “about the early results” from their investigation and hope further research will be as promising. If so, according to Wei, knee replacement surgery could end up being a “thing of the past.”
Regenerative Medicine Specialists uses both stem cell and PRP treatments to help treat knee osteoarthritis. In our experience, these related therapies help relieve joint pain, restore normal functioning, and often manage to produce results without the sometimes serious problems which may result from other therapies. In most cases, it’s possible to produce results in a single office visit.