New stem cell trial for osteoarthritis patients shows reduce pain, better quality of life

A new stem cell therapy for patients with osteoarthritis of the knee (KOA) has the potential to improve pain and overall symptoms, as well as reduce synovial inflammation, according to a new study published today in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.  

KOA is a common debilitating disease in the aging population where the cartilage wears away, resulting in bone wearing upon bone and subsequently causing pain. Joint replacement is currently the recommended treatment. However, stem cells collected from a patient’s own bone marrow have been of interest as a potential therapy because of its ability to regenerate the damaged cartilage, researchers say.

In a clinical trial, researchers from the Arthritis Program at the Krembil Research Institute, part of the University Health Network in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, used mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), collected from the patient's own bone marrow under local anesthesia, to treat KOA.

The study involved 12 patients, ages 45 to 65 years old, with moderate to severe KOA. They were divided in to three groups, with each group receiving different doses of his or her own MSCs. The researchers then followed the patients for 12 months, using imaging, biomarkers, molecular fingerprinting, and patient assessments to analyze efficacy of the treatment.

At the end of the 12-month period, the team noted significant improvements in the patients’ pain levels, function, and quality of life, according to the study abstract. In addition, the researchers said the study shows the MSCs were safe at all doses tested, and that the higher the dose, the more effective the outcome.

The next step will be larger scale trials, researchers say, but for now the current study offers valuable insights into the safety of stem  cell treatments for patients with arthritis, as well as potential therapy efficacy guidelines.