Stem Cells and Gene Therapy Can Be Used to Treat Younger Osteoarthritis Patients

Scientists have developed a possible new treatment for osteoarthritis. Using reprogrammed stem cells, researchers were able to grow cartilage around a hip joint construct. They were also able to use gene therapy to prevent the arthritis from returning. The details are in a paper just published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team created a biodegradable 3D woven scaffold that can be molded to match the shape of a patient’s hip joint. Stem cells can then be extracted from the under the patient’s skin and manipulated so that they grow into cartilage around the joint. In addition, the researchers developed a drug that activates a gene associated with the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals. This helps prevent the arthritis from coming back, generally preventing future joint problems.

Osteoarthritis is very common in the United States and there are millions of new cases every year. Sometimes the only possible treatment is hip replacement surgery. For younger patients, ages 40 to 65, that isn’t an option. Prosthetic joints rarely last more than 20 years. If the joint becomes too worn, a second surgery is required to replace it. This second surgery is both difficult and risky, potentially destroying bone. Patients under age 65 have limited options because doctors are hesitant to recommend hip replacement if there’s a chance they’d need a second surgery down the road. For these patients, the new stem cell technique could offer a great treatment alternative.

The custom joints are already being tested with animals. The research team expects human trials to start in three to five years. They believe that this new form of treatment could help many younger patients that have tried other treatments but aren’t good candidates for hip replacement surgery. Gene therapy will prevent the arthritis from coming back while also preserving the cartilage and reducing pain. This medical advance has the potential to help millions of Americans.

REFERENCE

Franklin T. Moutos et al. Anatomically shaped tissue-engineered cartilage with tunable and inducible anticytokine delivery for biological joint resurfacing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016).

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