Stem Cells and Osteoarthritis

Stem cell therapies have been a controversial over the past decade.  Over the past decade, however, despite the controversy behind them, more and more research is being done to support their use, and more and more people are being treated with stem cell therapies.  There are many medical specialties that are already using stem cells as a means of treatment.  

Stem cells are not only derived from embryos.  In fact, the majority of stem cells used in medicine today are derived from adult stem cells.  A stem cell is a cell that has the potential to renew itself, to differentiate into a variety of tissue types, and to repair damaged tissue.  Based on these three characteristics, one can see how stem cells could be used to heal existing injuries.

Orthopedics is one area of medicine that is using adult stem cells.  These stem cells are either derived from fat tissue, or from bone marrow.  Once the tissue is extracted, the stem cells are typically injected into damaged areas (arthritis areas) to help decrease pain and increase cartilage repair in those areas.  

The most recent study being evaluated compares adipose (fat) derived stem cells in combination with mircofracture, with microfracture treatment alone, to help heal knee arthritis (femoral condyle chondral defect).  

In the above study, it turns out that the group of people who had stem cells in combination with the microfracture procedure had improved cartilage repair on MRI and decreased pain as compared to the group that did not have the stem cells.  At the 2 year follow up, both groups of patients, however, reported similar improvements in quality of life and activities in daily living.  Despite visibly seeing improvements in cartilage regrowth on MRI, and having less pain, patient reports of overall outcomes remained the same.  Using the Treament Score CalculatorTM, we are able to quantify and compare the many upcoming studies that are being done on the usefulness and effectiveness of stem cell treatments down the line.  

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