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New Developments in the Search for an Osteoarthritis Treatment
March 17, 2004
By Audrey Walton for Knee1
Researchers at Osiris Therapeutics have recently demonstrated that an injection of stem cells can delay or reduce the impact of osteoarthritis (OA) in goats’ knees. The findings may bring researchers one step closer to a treatment that can reduce the degeneration of arthritic joints in humans.
The study was published in the December 2003 article Arthritis and Rheumatism. First, the research team surgically injected the goats with osteoarthritis in one knee. A control group of goats was also given a sham injection. Six weeks later, the researchers injected the affected knees with 10 million stem cells originally extracted from the goats’ bone marrow. In the knees which had been treated by stem cell injections, researchers observed a regeneration of joint tissue and a decrease in cartilage degeneration.
Dr. Frank Barry, the Director of Arthritis Research at Osiris and the head of the research team, commented to Reuters Health that "there may be a therapeutic benefit associated with local delivery of...stem cells following traumatic injury to the knee. The longer term effect of this may be a reduction or delay in the progression to osteoarthritis." Dr. Barry noted in the Arthritis and Rheumatism article that no-one had previously published a report on the use of stem cells to treat OA. (Dr. Barry is currently a leader in the development of new therapies for OA, with a particular interest in localized treatments.)
Stem cells are a much-publicized source of new medical developments, often associated with treatment for Parkinson’s, Type I diabetes, or damaged heart muscle. They have three essential attributes which differentiate them from other cells: they are capable of dividing and renewing their numbers for an unusually long period of time; they are "generalists," having no specialized function in the body; and they can give rise to specialized cells. Embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells serve different functions, and are used for different kinds of treatments. The stem cells which proved useful in the Osiris Therapeutics study are adult stem cells.
For more information about stem cells and stem cell research, including detailed links and a glossary, go to the National Institute of Health’s stem cell webpage at stemcells.nih.gov/infoCenter/stemCellBasics.asp. For more information about Osiris Therapeutics, go to www.osiristx.com.
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