Progress in regenerative medicine may offer hope to the millions suffering from osteoarthritis
I announced today that I will begin a randomized, controlled, double blind trial in my clinic in New York into the use of autologous, adipose-derived stem cells to treat osteoarthritis of the knee. This study is the first of its kind.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that injecting fat-derived stem cells harvested from a patient’s body is beneficial in treating osteoarthritis. This is not yet proved with any clinical trials, but the testimony of patients is compelling. Some patients who have had varying degrees of pain for years report being pain-free. Evidence from x-rays and arthroscopy shows evidence of changes.
More studies and FDA Review are needed
The only stem cell-based product currently approved by the FDA is umbilical cord blood-derived cells for disorders like blood cancers. This may change as more data is gathered from clinical trials that are taking place.
It is significant that fat-derived stem cells can easily be harvested under local anesthetic using a minimally invasive procedure. They are also available in abundance with many millions of cells being harvested in one treatment. If these stem cells are deployed into the knee joint of the patient, they have the potential of regenerating worn out cartilage. Physicians usually make use of medical imaging such as ultrasound. This is so they can deploy the cells exactly where cartilage is damaged.
What is osteoarthritis and how stem cells could help
In osteoarthritis in the knees, the cartilage between the joints has worn away. Without the cushioning, the bones rub together causing pain, swelling, stiffness and decreased mobility. Regenerated cartilage could solve all these problems.
Current treatments involve treating the symptoms by rest, analgesic use and steroid injections. They cannot solve the underlying problem. Patients often have to have costly knee replacement surgery as a last resort when nothing else works.
Experimental Procedures and anecdotal data
Patients who have benefited from this experimental procedure believe it is well worth it. Plenty of anecdotal evidence exists but clinical trials are needed to corroborate efficacy.
At present, there are no professional guidelines for who can receive stem cell therapy for arthritis. This decision is left to physicians and their patients.
About the Author
Dr. Joel Singer is a board certified plastic surgeon and the Medical Director of Park Avenue Stem Cell. He is fast becoming synonymous with innovative research of the application of stem cells to a variety of medical conditions. Most recently Dr. Singer was noted for his treatment of degenerative brain damage in current and former NFL players.