Stem cells offer hope for arthritis sufferers

April 13th, 2008 - 1:35 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 13 (IANS) Scientists have successfully identified stem cells that may be harnessed to repair damaged cartilage, offering relief to millions of osteoarthiritis patients. Cardiff University’s Charlie Archer, who led the study, said: “We have identified a cell which when grown in the lab can produce enough of a person’s own cartilage that it could be effectively transplanted.

“There are limitations in trying to transplant a patient’s existing cartilage cells, but by culturing it from a resident stem cell we believe we can overcome this limitation.”

Osteoarthritis affects millions worldwide. It occurs when changes in the make up of the body’s cartilage causes joints to fail to work properly.

In the worst-case scenario, it can cause the break up of cartilage, causing the ends of the bones in the joint to rub against each other. This results in severe pain and deformation of the joint.

One line of treatment in younger patients is to harvest cartilage cells from neighbouring healthy cartilage and transplant them into the damaged area. Unfortunately, only a limited number of cells can be generated.

Their breakthrough came in identifying a similar cell in human cartilage that was more like a stem cell with characteristics that they could be used to treat cartilage lesions due to trauma but also mark the onset of osteoarthritis.

Archer commented: “We have embarked on the next stage which is to conduct and animal trial which is a necessary pre-requisite to a clinical trial which we hope to start next year if the results are positive.”

The findings were presented at the National Stem Cell Network Annual Science Meeting in Edinburgh.

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