Can Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation Be an Effective Osteoarthritis Treatment?

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of disability and long-term pain in the US right now — with around 30 million sufferers. And while there have been advances in the treatments and technologies used to alleviate the symptoms of OA, the number of people suffering from the debilitating condition is expected to continue rising for many years to come. 

Therapies and treatments for osteoarthritis haven’t evolved all that much over recent years. Instead of trying to treat the condition, clinicians are forced to deal with the symptoms. Sadly, when the pain becomes too much to bear, the only viable option is the replacement of the joint. 

There are many factors involved in the onset of osteoarthritis. Some are congenital, while others are environmental and lifestyle-related. Issues such as previous injuries, weight, genetics, and diet can all play a role. 

But there may be a link between osteoarthritis and the reduction of mesenchymal stem cells within the body. This relationship was explored by Freitag et al., who studied the safety and effectiveness of MSCs transplantation as a treatment method. The researchers targeted the role of reparative pathways as part of their research. 

MSCs are relatively easy to harvest from the human body. And they can develop into chondrocytes, which can moderate pain and alleviate many OA symptoms. The use of MSCs in this context continues to attract the interest of researchers in the field. 

The research carried out by Freitag et al. concentrated on techniques used to repair cartilage. MSCs are administered in different ways to promote the regeneration of cartilage tissue:

  • Scaffold transplantation
  • Transplants by injection
  • The use of MSCs as vehicles for platelet-rich plasma
  • The use of hyaluronic acid as an MSC carrier

All methods of stem cell therapy for cartilage repair have delivered promising results in relation to function gain and tissue regeneration for osteoarthritis sufferers. 

The results were so promising, there are currently hundreds of similar trials ongoing today — all exploring the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells when used for regenerative purposes. And many of these studies are targeting OS specifically. The combination of safety and efficacy is proving very interesting to researchers and healthcare professionals across the world. 

Freitag et al, conclude that — generally speaking — the use of MSCs as a therapeutic treatment for osteoarthritis is safe. But there’s a caveat. A few studies seem to demonstrate abnormal cell growth. As a result, the authors of the study urge caution during the MSC culturing process.

Most of the traditional remedies for osteoarthritis target the relief of symptoms. But this research demonstrates the need to find therapies that repair the damage caused by such diseases. It may be possible to prevent the likes of osteoarthritis from progressing once a diagnosis has been delivered. 

Freitag et al. concluded that the use of MSC transplants could be an effective and safe way to treat or prevent OA and similar diseases. But they add that more research into the relationship between stem cell therapy and osteoarthritis is essential. 

Source:   (2016, May 26). Mesenchymal stem cell therapy in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Retrieved from

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