According to a recently published experimental rabbit study in Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology and Arthroscopy, autologous (from the same individual) mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) can be used in the repair of cartilage injuries.
Injuries of joint cartilage may cause pain and disability, and often the knee is affected. These injuries are often seen in athletes, and are difficult to treat. A rehabilitation program to regain muscle strength and balance is usually the first treatment option. If the patient does not improve, surgical treatment may be necessary.
There are several methods for surgical treatment, and for many years cartilage cells cultured from a piece of cartilage from the patient’s knee have been used. A disadvantage with this method is that a piece of the normal cartilage has to be removed, and the quality of the repair cartilage is inferior to normal cartilage. Using mesenchymal stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow will theoretically be a better alternative than cartilage cells, and taking healthy cartilage for cell culture will be also avoided.
Stem cell treatment shows promising results
In this study stem cells from the bone marrow of the rabbit were cultured for 4 weeks to achieve a high number of cells. The cells were transferred to a biomaterial (hyaluronan) and implanted in a cartilage defect in the rabbit’s knee. In the other knee the biomaterial without cells were implanted. After 6 months there was a high degree of filling in the defects, and there were no difference between knees treated with biomaterial filled with stem cells and the knees treated with empty biomaterial. There was, however, a tendency for a better quality of the repair cartilage in the knees treated with stem cells.
This study shows that stem cells from the patient may be a future alternative in the treatment of cartilage injuries. The method needs further development before controlled studies in humans can be initiated.
The first author is Sverre Løken from the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center and Orthopaedic Centre, Ullevaal University Hospital and Medical School. Co-authors were Jakobsen RB, Arøen A, Heir S, Shahdadfar A, Brinchmann JE, Engebretsen L og Reinholt FP.
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