Researchers at Duke University announced a promising new stem cell therapy aimed at osteoarthritis prevention after a joint injury.
The probability of developing arthritis after injury (post-traumatic arthritis – PTA) greatly increases after injury. Currently, the US FDA has not approved any drugs that slow or eliminate the progression of PTA.
However, at Duke researchers are beginning to confirm mesenchmal stem cell (MSCs) therapy in arthritis treatment. The treatment is similar to that which professional athletes and others have been seeking abroad in places like Panama and Germany for the past few years.
In the study, mice sustaining fractures that commonly lead to arthritis were treated with MSCs. “The stem cells were able to prevent post-traumatic arthritis,” said Farshid Guilak, Ph.D., director of orthopaedic research at Duke and senior author of the study.
The study was published on August 10 in Cell Transplantation.
Lead author Brian Diekman, Ph.D said the scientists observed markers of inflammation and noted that the stem cells affected the joint’s inflammatory environment following injury.
“The stem cells changed the levels of certain immune factors, called cytokines, and altered the bone healing response,” stated Diekman.
The Duke team used mesenchymal stem cells isolated from bone marrow. Bone marrow stem cells are very rare; making isolation difficult and requiring that the isolated cells be cultured in the lab under low-oxygen conditions.
“We found that by placing the stem cells into low-oxygen conditions, they would grow more rapidly in culture so that we could deliver enough of them to make a difference therapeutically,” Diekman said.
A richer source of mesenchymal cells is adipose (fat) tissue. Therapeutic doses of MSCs are routinely harvested from fat tissue and do not require culturing in the lab. However, it does takes 5 five days to thoroughly test the adipose cell samples for aerobic bacteria, anaerobic bacteria and endotoxins.