A stem cell graft to treat cartilage injuries has been approved by the FDA. Created by the biotechnology company Vericel, the procedure is called Matrix Associated Chondrocyte Implantation (MACI), and involves obtaining stem cells from the patient and culturing them in a lab. The cultured cells are then placed into a matrix to create layers of 3D tissue, which is then implanted back into the knee to repair the injured cartilage. This treatment is specifically targeted to younger patients [recall - younger stem cells are more plentiful and more active] who have experienced what is called a focal chondral defect, which is a lesion or hole in the cartilage due to an injury. This treatment is significant because these cartilage lesions often develop into osteoarthritis, with serious implications for the patient’s future quality of life. Hence, utilization of this FDA approved autologous stem cell treatment would not only address the physical distress of the condition but would also effectively mitigate the concerns and stress patients experience regarding future complications.
Dr. Christian Jorgensen, head of the clinical unit for osteoarticular diseases, and his team from Lapeyronie University Hospital in Montpellier, France have a treatment for arthritis using the patient’s own [autologous] stem cells. Following the recovery of the stem cells, they were injected directly into the knee joint affected by arthritis. The experiment consisted of three groups receiving different dosages of the stem cells. Interestingly, each group experienced significant improvements in pain and mobility of the joint.
Osteoarthritis is the most common chronic condition of the joints, occurring most often in the knees, hips, lower back, and neck. There are approximately 54 million patients in the U.S., of which some 760,000 patients undergo surgery costing an average $33,706, according to the U.S. Center of Disease Control and Prevention. One biotechnology company is combating this problem by utilizing autologous [the patient’s own] stem cells.
A recent study reported by Science News found that a small molecule called kartogenin aids mesenchymal stem cells in differentiating into cells that make up cartilage. The study found that damaged cartilage in the knee can now be regenerated, not only restoring cartilage in the joint but also reducing or eliminating the associated pain of osetoarthritis.