By Dave Andrusko
The headline in Nature World News seemingly couldn’t be much more optimistic: “Goodbye Arthritis: Stem Cell Therapy Could Revolutionize Hip Replacement.”
Except for the additional good news when the reader learns the source of the stem cells. Not embryonic cells—sold to a gullible public as a cure-all—but the patient’s own stem cells extracted from their fat.
The study was published last month in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS).
“The new technique may be ready to test in humans within three to five years and may ultimately work with other joints, such as knees, said Farshid Guilak, who co-led the project,” Livescience.com reported.
Guilak [a professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis] 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.
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.
NRL News Today asked Dr. David Prentice, our go-to guy for all issues dealing with stem cell research, for a further explanation.
This is another great advance using adult stem cells. Previous work successfully used adult stem cells to grow small bits of cartilage to repair joint damage. This new procedure would help to re-line entire joints with good-as-new cartilage. The technique could help in hip repair, especially for patients with severe osteoarthritis. This is because the researchers added a feature to the adult stem cells that helps the cells secrete anti-inflammatory agents, protecting the cartilage from the usual attacks seen in osteoarthritis. If this procedure works well in animal trials, it would be a great benefit to patients and could potentially supplant the need for whole hip replacements in some patients. Once again, adult stem cells show why they are the gold standard for stem cells.