Doctors from the Melbourne Stem Cell Center are using stem cells to regrow damaged knee cartilage. Over 70 patients have had their own isolated and expanded mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) injected into their own knee joints. In initial results, half of those treated at Melbourne Stem Cell Center saw a three-quarters reduction in pain and vastly improved knee function.
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.
Scientists from the University of California Los Angeles have identified the origins cells of human articular cartilage. Cartilage loss is at the forefront of American medicine, with osteoarthritis currently affecting more than 20 million people in the US. This experiment could serve as a biological roadmap for regenerative therapies repairing cartilage defects and damage.
Bioengineers from the University of California, San Diego, have identified a mechanism by which stem cell differentiation is regulated by the exertion of mechanical pressure. Using optical tweezers to apply mechanical force to stem cells, the researchers, led by Dr. Yingxiao Wang, observed the release of calcium ions, which are critical in the cellular communication required for stem cell differentiation. Dr. Wang’s team concluded that the forces of a stem cell’s environment, such as the tension inside the jaw, can promote the cell’s maturation into stiff tissue like bone or cartilage.
Tissue engineers at Johns Hopkins University have successfully utilized tiny fiber scaffolds to aid stem cells in developing into the shock-absorbing cartilage that exists around elbows and knees. The researchers believe the results hold promise for devising new techniques to help the millions of Americans who currently suffer from joint pain.