US scientists to develop adult stem cell therapy for joint repair

Published on 21 July 2010
Egg and sperm cells

Scientists at Rice University in the US are to carry out research into an adult stem cell therapy for use in patients with injured knee joints.

Researchers at the university's BioScience Research Collaborative hope to develop an injectable mix of polymers and adult stem cells that would encourage the growth of new cartilage.

There is no suitable synthetic replacement for articular cartilage at present and the body is unable to repair it effectively.

Kurt Kasper, a principal investigator on the new five-year study, revealed: "Millions of people live with pain, limited mobility and arthritis that often result from cartilage injuries, particularly those to the knee.

"By combining just enough of a patient's own stem cells with the proper mix of growth factors and polymers, we hope to allow the body to do something it cannot normally do - fill in small gaps with healthy, new bone-protecting cartilage."

The research team will use mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which can be manipulated to become cartilage-generating cells in the laboratory.

They hope to find the best formulation of MSCs and growth factors to regenerate cartilage.

This mixture would then be combined with a biodegradable polymer system that can be injected as a liquid, forming a temporary support matrix to guide the growth of new cartilage.

Dr Kasper noted that the formulation would need to be tested in animals before undergoing clinical trials, and that any human treatment is still at least ten years away.

Arthritis Research UK announced last week that it is to run a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of cultured stem cells from bone marrow to treat up to 70 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee later this year, as part of a £500,000 five-year programme.

Stem cells offer cartilage repair hope for arthritis sufferers

Skeleton

Research being presented today (11 April) at the UK National Stem Cell Network Annual Science Meeting in Edinburgh could offer hope that bone stem cells may be harnessed to repair damaged cartilage – one of the main symptoms of osteoarthritis.