Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic degenerative disease of the joints that affects millions of people worldwide. The condition is characterized by the progressive deterioration of the articular cartilage and the underlying bone and by inflammation of the joints. With the aging of the population, the number of people affected by OA is expected to continue to rise in the coming years, putting an ever-increasing strain on healthcare systems worldwide.
The current treatments for osteoarthritis are aimed at relieving pain while having no effect on its progression. In severe cases of knee OA where patients do not respond to conservative treatments, knee replacement is the only therapeutic option.
Although this surgery can provide significant improvements in quality of life, it is nonetheless associated with a number of risks and complications, such as infection, blood clots, and implant failure. In light of these drawbacks, there is a growing interest in developing new therapies that can regenerate damaged articular cartilage and halt the progression of OA.
Stem cell-based regenerative medicine approaches hold great promise in this regard, as they have the potential to generate functional tissue that can replace the lost or damaged cartilage. Numerous studies have shown that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can differentiate into chondrocytes and form new cartilage tissue in vitro and in vivo.
Furthermore, MSCs have been shown to exert anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects, which could help to mitigate some of the deleterious symptoms of OA. Collectively, these findings suggest that MSC-based therapy could represent a safe and effective treatment for OA.
A study, Intra-articular injection of two different doses of autologous bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells versus hyaluronic acid in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: multicenter randomized controlled clinical trial (phase I/II), looked into the potential of stem cell therapy on patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis.
Results of the Study
The aim of the study was to evaluate the safety, feasibility, and efficacy of stem cell therapy for knee OA. 30 patients between the ages of 50 and 60 with knee OA were recruited for the study. The researchers decided to use bone-marrow-derived stem cells for the treatment. Patients were divided into three groups.
The control group was given intra-articular injections of hyaluronic acid. The low-dose stem cell group was given injections of 10,000,000 stem cells, followed by an injection of hyaluronic acid. The high-dose stem cell group was given injections of 100,000,000 stem cells, followed by an injection of hyaluronic acid.
The researchers followed the patients for 12 months after receiving the treatment. The study evaluated patients using VAS and WOMAC scores, measuring the knee motion range, and X-ray and MRI to analyze joint damage. The results of the study were promising for patients who are suffering from knee OA.
There were no adverse effects as a result of the stem cell injection throughout the course of the study. Some patients experienced articular pain during the 24 hours after receiving the treatment. This pain was treated using anti-inflammatory medication.
The researchers evaluated the patients using VAS and WOMAC scores before the treatment, and 3, 6, and 12 months after receiving the treatment. The study showed that patients in the control group did not experience any improvement in their pain according to their VAS scores. The control group did show some improvement in their WOMAC pain and functionality subscores, but it was not sustained over time.
Both stem cell groups showed pain improvements throughout their daily activities. VAS scores were significantly lowered when patients were treated with stem cells. The high-dose group saw significant improvement in all WOMAC subscores 12 months after receiving the stem cell treatment. Both stem cell groups saw improvements in their WOMAC scores in the long run.
Knee flexion and extension ranges of motion were improved in patients who were treated with stem cells. The high-dose stem cell group saw improvements earlier than the low-dose stem cell group. The control group did not experience these same improvements.
The high-dose stem cell group showed improvement under X-ray and MRI. Specifically, the high-dose group saw improvement in the WORMS protocol score. The stem cells were able to improve pain scores and potentially address the underlying causes of OA.
The use of BM-MSCs resulted in significant relief of pain symptoms for those suffering from knee osteoarthritis. The study found that when these cells were administered, there was an improvement seen at every point in the study, and it continued through 12 months afterward when they reached their highest effects.
The study also showed that the treatment is safe without any side effects or complications. These findings pave the way toward future phase III clinical trials, which will be necessary before this treatment can become widely available.