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Low Dose of Stem Cells Might Provide Relief to Those Suffering from Arthritis of the Knee

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DURHAM, NC - A new study appearing in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (SCTM) indicates that a single low dose of a patient’s own stem cells might offer relief from osteoarthritis of the knee.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints, resulting from the cartilage or cushion between the joints breaking down. This leads to pain, stiffness and swelling. OA is on the rise in the western world, in part because of the aging population and also because of obesity, which strains the joints by increasing the load they carry. Any joint in the body may be affected by OA, but it is particularly common in the knee.

There are no current treatments to stop the progressive degeneration of joint tissues in OA, but many researchers wonder if stem cells might offer a solution due to their regenerative capacity. The study appearing in SCTM was aimed at evaluating both the safety and effectiveness of different doses of a type of stem cell called adipose-derived stromal cell (ASC), taken from adults’ fat tissue.

In the phase I clinical trial conducted in France and Germany from April 2012 to December 2013, 18 patients with symptomatic and severe knee OA were treated with a single local injection of their own ASCs. The patients were divided into three groups of six each, with one group receiving a low dose (23,106) of cells, the second group a medium dose (103,106), and the third a high dose (503,106).

After six months of follow-up, no serious adverse events were reported and the treatment appeared to be safe, said lead investigator Christian Jorgensen, M.D., Ph.D., of University Hospital of Montpellier and director of INSERM’s stem cell research unit. “Although this phase I study included a limited number of patients without a placebo arm,” he said, “we were able to show that this innovative treatment was well tolerated in patients with knee OA and it provided encouraging preliminary evidence of efficacy. Interestingly, patients treated with low-dose ASCs significantly improved in pain and function compared with the baseline”

The next step is to conduct larger, controlled long-term studies to confirm the findings. As such, the research team is initiating a placebo-controlled double-blind phase IIb study.

“This study shows yet another promising indication of stem cell therapy and it will be interesting to see the results of the next phase of the research,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

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The full article, “Adipose mesenchymal stromal cell-based therapy for severe osteoarthritis of the knee: a phase I dose-escalation trial,” can be accessed at http://stemcellstm.alphamedpress.org/content/early/2016/05/22/sctm.2015-0245.abstract.