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How Can Stem Cells Treat Osteoarthritis?

While the use of MSCs in the treatment of osteoarthritis is still in the early stages of research, the results so far are promising.

While the use of MSCs in the treatment of osteoarthritis is still in the early stages of research, the results so far are promising.

Advanced treatments show exceptional potential to reduce inflammation and ease joint pain from osteoarthritis

A chronic degenerative joint disease that affects millions of people worldwide, osteoarthritis is a very common condition. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 30 percent of those over the age of 65 suffer from osteoarthritis.

This disease occurs as a result of the deterioration of cartilage tissue inside joints such as knees and elbows. This cartilage tissue normally cushions the small bones inside these joints. But when cartilage deteriorates, the result can be pain and inflammation as well as swelling and stiffness.

The cartilage tissue may even wear away completely, which causes bones to rub directly against each other and can result in bone spurs and even further damage to the joint.

How can stem cells treat osteoarthritis?

Treatments options often ineffective

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, patients often are treated for symptoms with:

  • Medications: Many patients are prescribed pain medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroids, but medications can cause side effects and may not be effective as the disease progresses.
  • Physical therapy: To help improve flexibility and strengthen muscles around the affected joint, a physical therapist can create an exercise program based on individual needs.
  • Supplements: Some patients take supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, to help treat symptoms of osteoarthritis. While there is limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of using these supplements, some people have reported improvements in pain and mobility after taking them.
  • Surgery: In serious cases, joint replacement surgery may be recommended to restore mobility and alleviate severe pain.

Advanced stem cell therapy: Another treatment option for osteoarthritis

Recent research shows that stem cell therapy—using mesenchymal stem cells derived from umbilical cord tissue—can help patients who suffer from osteoarthritis without the need for medications or complex and possibly risky surgery.

Unlike medications that may not be effective in the long term or surgery, which can pose risks of complications, stem cell therapy takes advantage of the body’s natural healing processes.

For example, inflammation is a natural process the body uses to signal that repair is needed to various tissues or to signal immune cells to attack foreign microbes. But too much inflammation not only causes pain, but it can also signal immune cells to attack healthy tissue, such as cartilage. Many diseases like osteoarthritis are associated with an imbalance between inflammation and immune system response.

When mesenchymal stems cells (MSCs) are injected into joints, they help signal other cells in the body to modulate the body’s immune response and reduce excess inflammation. These signaling characteristics can stimulate the body’s natural healing process to help regenerate cartilage tissue.

So while mesenchymal stem cells don’t turn into cells to replace cartilage, they can in a sense, teach the body how to heal itself. The result? Improved joint function, less pain and inflammation, and a better quality of life.

There are many different types and sources of stem cells. Some clinics use mesenchymal stem cells harvested from the patient, either from bone marrow or adipose (fatty) tissue. At BioXcellerator we umbilical cord-derived cells because research shows that these young cells offer more therapeutic potential. Using our proprietary protocols, we culture and expand these cells to improve the potency of these cells and effectiveness of treatment.

Advanced stem cell therapy: Another treatment option for osteoarthritis

Research continues

Is there evidence to support the potential for stem cell therapy? Scientists worldwide continue to study these new treatments.

One study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine in 2014 reviewed use of intra-articular injections of MSCs in patients with knee osteoarthritis.  Patients in the study received either a low dose or a high dose of MSCs – or a placebo injection. The results showed significant improvements in pain and function in patients that received MSCs compared to those in the placebo group. Another study of knee patients published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2020 reported similar results and improvement.

And in 2016, a study published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine looked at similar treatment for patients with osteoarthritis in the hip. This study showed that treatment was generally safe, improved joint function, and relieved pain.

While the use of MSCs in the treatment of osteoarthritis is still in the early stages of research, the results so far are promising. Stem cell therapy is generally safe, and given that it takes advantage of natural healing processes, may help many millions of patients who suffer from this painful and disabling disease.

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