Arthritis-fighting stem cells may eliminate the need for joint replacement surgeries, scientists said.
Scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Cytex Therapeutics, Inc. in Durham, North Carolina discovered a new technique of repairing damaged joints by programming stem cells to grow new cartilage on a hip joint.
Moreover, through gene therapy, scientists also enabled the new cartilage to release anti-inflammatory molecules when activated by a drug.
The researchers said that by using a patient's own cells to repair a damaged joint, the new technique could eliminate the need for extensive joint-replacement surgeries in the future.
"Replacing a failed prosthetic joint is a difficult surgery. We've developed a way to resurface an arthritic joint using a patient's own stem cells to grow new cartilage, combined with gene therapy to release anti-inflammatory molecules to keep arthritis at bay," study author Farshid Guilak said in a statement published by International Business Times.
"Our hope is to prevent, or at least delay, a standard metal and plastic prosthetic joint replacement," Guilak added.
According to the researchers, the new technique could be ready for human trials within the next three to five years, and may also work with other joints, such as the knees.
In the study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Guilak and his team designed a method that involves extracting stem cells from a patient's fat and seeding on an external woven scaffold, which is designed to fit over the ball of the patient's joint. The stem cells are coaxed to turn into cartilage cells and are then spread throughout the woven scaffold over a period of six weeks, Live Science reports.
According to the scientists, the plan is to remove the worn-out cartilage from the ball of the joint and replace it with a "living joint" to resurface the hip. The method makes sure the bone of the hip remains intact unlike the standard metal and plastic prosthetics, Guilak said.
The technique will soon be tested in animals, the scientists said.
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