Progress made in development of new stem cell treatment for osteoarthritis
Published on 26 March 2014
Researchers in Ireland have made progress in work towards developing a new stem cell treatment for osteoarthritis.
A European Union-funded project at the National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway is exploring how stem cells from adult fat tissue could be used for the regeneration of cartilage and are hopeful a treatment could be ready for patients within five years.
A phase I clinical trial has just been completed, which revealed positive results when fat-derived stem cells were injected into diseased joints in a bid to regenerate cartilage.
The researchers said these cells represent a good alternative to those taken from bone marrow as they are easily available through minimally-invasive surgery and the large quantities of fat in the body mean doctors can harvest large amounts of the cells at the same time.
Professor Frank Barry, scientific director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute at NUI Galway, stated: "From the clinical trials conducted so far, we have seen the first signs of finding a cure for this truly incapacitating disease which affects so many.
"Using the patient's own stem cells we have been able to treat their diseased joints and relieve their suffering and burden of pain."
He said that currently osteoarthritis patients' only treatment options are joint-replacement surgery in advanced cases or life-long pain management.
The NUI Galway research is funded through the EU's ADIPOD project, which is an international initiative including partners from France, Italy, Germany and several other European nations. It has received more than €900 million (£751 million) in investment from the EU to date.
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK, which is funding research into stem cells taken from bone marrow cells to treat osteoarthritis at its tissue engineering centre, said: "The use of stem cells to treat cartilage damage and osteoarthritis is still at an experimental stage, but could have real future potential.”