Stem Cell Research To Regenerate Cartilage

Stem Cell Research To Regenerate Cartilage

Pioneering stem cell research discoveries are driving more research into the molecular mechanisms of cartilage regeneration and repair. New therapies are desperately needed to heal or replace damaged cartilage in joints ravaged by osteoarthritis (OA).

Articular cartilage develops as you develop in your mother’s womb to provide a smooth gliding surface for joint movement. Once lost to the devastating effects of osteoarthritis, the smooth layer of cartilage no longer cushions the ends of the bones where they come together to form joints. Damaged cells pile up in bony spurs and swollen joints, triggering constant, grinding pain. Today, total joint replacement surgery is the only treatment available for this painful and crippling disease, but that is about to change thanks to stem cell research.

Stem Cell Research of Dr. April Craft

In the near future, scientists hope to treat damaged cartilage with grafts of newly grown cartilage tissues derived from stem cells. At Boston Children’s Hospital, Arthritis National Research Foundation funded researcher April Craft, PhD, is working to harness the power of stem cells to generate a new layer of articular cartilage. “The challenge with cartilage repair and regeneration is that the articular cartilage lining our joints forms prenatally,” she explains. “Regeneration does not normally occur after birth.”

Will stem cell research scientists someday be able to repair damaged cartilage by transplanting tissues grown in a lab? Do pluripotent stem cells hold the key to regenerating lost cartilage?

As an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and Stem Cells and Regenerative Biology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Craft is coaxing stem cells to grow into articular cartilage in a petri dish. Using pluripotent stem cells, cells that can generate into any cell type in the body, she has generated specialized cells called chondrocytes that develop during embryonic development. Chondrocytes are the cells that make up cartilage tissues, and part of their job is to make proteins that help distribute load and lubricate joints.

Stem Cell Research on Cartilage Regeneration

Ultimately, the goal of this stem cell research is to generate stable articular cartilage that can be successfully transplanted into a patient’s knee or other joints. “The challenge with using pluripotent stem cells is to reliably and efficiently generate large numbers of articular chondrocytes and cartilage tissues,” she explains. “We anticipate that knowledge we gain through these studies can be used to predict whether certain populations of cells from existing cartilage tissues are better suited than others to repair or regenerate cartilage tissues.“

The ability to create more effective implants for long-term cartilage repair will improve dramatically with increased knowledge of how these tissues develop normally in the body. “We were the first to demonstrate that human articular cartilage tissues generated in this manner are very similar to those found in our joints,” says Dr. Craft. “Now we have an opportunity to build on these findings to learn more about cartilage development, and define characteristics of cells that have the greatest ability to regenerate this tissue.”

Cartilage Regeneration Research by Dr. April Craft

No longer the stuff of science fiction, her Arthritis National Research Foundation funded stem cell research holds promise for nearly 27 million Americans who suffer the pain of osteoarthritis. Cartilage tissues grown in a lab setting offer a safe and non-invasive way to screen for new drugs that might protect against further damage.

“The field of regenerative medicine is exploding,” says Dr. Craft. “With Arthritis National Research Foundation support, we are moving step by step to identify the most promising cells to grow ‘cartilage in a dish’ so that we can achieve our goal of healing damaged joints.”

Excited about stem cell research and the promise it holds to regenerate cartilage? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

  • Ivy Mosley
    Posted at 15:36h, 07 September Reply

    I just had my right hip replaced from OA and I’m 44 years old. I use to kick box and was told my joints appeared to be and/or were probably not form properly from birth. I have to have the other hip done as well and hope that they have this figured out before I need it done. The entire experience was horrible for I pray this research is successful.

  • Donna Verba
    Posted at 07:41h, 09 September Reply

    Stem Cell injections WORK. I was told I would need hip & knew replacement. I said no way. I had stem cell injections in knees & hip I now can get up & down with no pain. Knees bend I can lay on my side & sleep at night could do none of this before. My own stem cells were used for the injections if I could afford it I would have it done again.

    • Kent Evans
      Posted at 09:14h, 14 January Reply

      Did you have x-rays and MRI’s to confirm the degeneration of cartilage? How are you doing now? I am just starting to get knee pain from a slight amount of arthritis. I am going to look into a seminar nearby in Colorado. I am not sure if it is covered by insurance.

  • Valerie Fair
    Posted at 19:31h, 09 September Reply

    I saw my arthritis doctor today and had three injections in my shoulder which are very painful. My MRI shows I have no cartilage left in my left shoulder and bone spurs that have torn ligaments and I also have a torn rotator cuff I’m 57 years old and I’m scared to death. My orthopedic doctor and arthritis doctor both say there’s nothing else that can be done besides a shoulder replacement. I have heard some bad horror stories about this and I am just so depressed. I hope that the stem cell research goes well and quickly I’m praying I could possibly get this to prevent shoulder complete shoulder replacement. thank you so much

    Posted at 14:28h, 20 October Reply

    Please continue your research I’m desperate to avoid shoulder replacement surgery..

  • arlene
    Posted at 23:03h, 25 November Reply

    I’m praying all the good things I’ve heard about stem cell therapy to grow ones own cartilage is true. I was just diagnosed with severe oasis in my left knee. Received a steroid injection to help with the terribly painful inflammation. I’m only 56 and an to be around as long as the LORD allows and would love to be able to enjoy my life and be productive. Looking forward to hearing and hopefully experience your success! God bless!

  • Kent Evans
    Posted at 09:17h, 14 January Reply

    I am encouraged by the number of clinics offering Stem Cell Therapy for knee arthritis. But I see very little images where they have taken x-rays or MRI’s before or after. I am not sure why this is. We don’t want quackery here but there are a lot of testimonies that appear to be short term testimonies.

  • Mashroof Hayat
    Posted at 21:58h, 07 June Reply

    i have the problem of knee joint pain even i have difficulty in standing,on the suggestion of one of my colleagues i took stem cell on her advise thanks to god my knee joint pain almost recover.i am also suffering with sciatica hopefully will also get better.

  • Andre
    Posted at 22:06h, 05 December Reply

    My mother had shoulder replacement at 84 years old. She’s now going on 92 and she feels like her shoulder is her own bone. She’s never had any pain and has full range of movement.

    • CureArthritis
      Posted at 09:08h, 06 December Reply

      Hi Andre! We’re so glad your mom’s shoulder replacement has been a success. We working to ensure others don’t have to go through the pain of surgery or the initial pain she was experiencing. Thank you for your comment and let her know we’re happy for her!

  • Audrey Trull
    Posted at 19:10h, 03 January Reply

    I am 71 years old and am receiving stem cells in both knees in two weeks. I’ve been told that at my age, I might not have as much success as I would if I was younger. That makes since to me, but just want to know if this is correct. I’m still willing to take the chance of getting some relief. This is the last resort before replacement of both knees. I’ve already had five lumbar surgeries, both hips replaced, neck surgery, and rotator surgery in left shoulder. I am trying to prevent any more surgery if at all possible. Could someone tell me what I might expect during the procedure, what is the pain level, and when I will start to see results.

    • CureArthritis
      Posted at 09:21h, 04 January Reply

      Hi Audrey, We cannot give medical advice from the Foundation. However, please note that all stem cell treatments currently on the market have not been vetted by the FDA and have shown varying degrees of success and failure. Please be careful and be sure to get a second opinion from a doctor.

    • Loretta Frazer
      Posted at 15:03h, 15 April Reply

      Hi Audrey,
      I am also 71 and trying to avoid knee replacement. I’ve had both hips replaced. Have you tried stem cell injections and have they helped? Thank you.

  • Ann Fuhrman
    Posted at 17:16h, 07 August Reply

    I need help with my knees; they are bone on bone. I have heard age hinders the regeneration process. Is HGH used to offset age related setbacks?

    • CureArthritis
      Posted at 08:55h, 08 August Reply

      There is limited research on HGH and it’s usage for arthritis related disease. However, HGH has been shown to help stimulate the repair of cartilage, but not the regeneration of cartilage. Therefore there must be cartilage present in the joint to stimulate the repair. The results are inconclusive at this point and more work is needed to determine the effectiveness of the treatment.

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