Mesenchymal stem cells are a relatively new approach to decreasing pain and improving function in knees affected by osteoarthritis. One study evaluating 18 patients showed that mesenchymal stem cell injections improved the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis, with this conclusion based on the result of MRI imaging.
Stem cells were harvested from fat cells, combined with platelet-rich plasma, and injected into the knees affected by osteoarthritis. Should you choose to treat your osteoarthritis with stem cell therapy, you may undergo a similar procedure involving platelet-rich plasma.
The effectiveness of any stem cell therapy, or any therapy for that matter, will depend in part on your body’s receptivity to the treatment, as well as other factors. However, the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health posted a report showing evidence of stem cell therapy’s efficacy in decreasing pain and improving knee function in patients with osteoarthritis in one or more knees.
Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy Is One Form of Knee-Targeted Stem Cell Therapy
Stem cells are cells in the human body responsible for creating other cells. They are the birthing point for cells that carry out specialized functions, such as those in the brain or heart. The two types of cells that result from stem cell multiplication are:
- Cells created for a specialized function, such as creating joint cartilage, heart muscle, or some other specific feature of the body
- Additional stem cells
The ability to create specialized cells is what makes stem cells the focus of so much medical research. If medical professionals can tailor stem cells to regenerate cells that are damaged or otherwise cease to function properly, then the belief is that they could be the source of countless forms of treatment.
This idea is the basis of using stem cells to regrow cartilage, whether in osteoarthritic knees or elsewhere in the body. The ability to produce new cartilage, or even preserve the cartilage remaining in a joint, may mean that stem cells are a viable alternative of treatment to joint replacement and other procedures that pose a threat of potentially serious complications.
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Mesenchymal Stem Cells 101
When prescribed mesenchymal stem cells for therapies, they are taken from the body of an adult rather than embryonic stem cells, which must be taken from a fetus. Some of the places where mesenchymal stem cells may be derived from include:
- bone marrow
- adipose tissue
- umbilical cord tissue
The source of mesenchymal stem cells will depend on how easy they are to extract and how the source of the cells will lend themselves to the intended effect of the therapy. A revealing review of mesenchymal stem cell therapy has shown that, generally speaking, mesenchymal stem cells have proven effective in minimizing the effects of:
- Degenerative diseases, knee osteoarthritis among them
- Ailments caused at least in part by inflammation
- Immune system deficiencies
The positive effect on cartilage restoration and preservation shown by the aforementioned studies reinforces the knowledge that mesenchymal stem cells may counteract degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis of the knee.
Stem Cell Therapy May Be Safer Than Other Treatments for Osteoarthritis
Before the increased availability of stem cell treatments for knee osteoarthritis, joint replacement surgery was among the options for addressing degenerative knee conditions. To understand the relative safety of mesenchymal stem cell therapy, it helps to know the risks associated with joint replacement surgery.
Some of the complications of joint replacement surgery are:
- Infection of the surgical wound
- Nerve injury in the affected area
- Malfunction of the prosthetic joint
- Blood clotting
- Infection around the prosthetic joint
By comparison, mesenchymal stem cell therapy for knee osteoarthritis can be considered safe, as a study on the pros and cons of mesenchymal stem cell-based therapies showed that patients who underwent stem cell therapy for their knee pain experienced no serious side effects.
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Osteoarthritis Is a Common Issue as You Grow Older
For many in the United States, osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder. It is the deterioration of the cushioning cartilage between bones. This deterioration can be extremely painful and limiting, and it is not practical to simply live with the effects of osteoarthritis, especially in a joint as important as the knee.
One of the effects of mesenchymal stem cell treatment is to reduce the effect of degenerative disease, of which osteoarthritis is one. Patients who received stem cell injections for knee osteoarthritis reported positive health outcomes after receiving stem cell injections for osteoarthritis. Further examination of knee joints reinforced the perceived improvement in health and pain in the affected area.
*The information within this article is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please speak to a medical professional to diagnose and address specific conditions.