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What you need to know about this breakthrough treatment of arthritis

By Stephen Morgan     Mar 9, 2015 in Health
British scientists have hailed the results of a new, experimental stem cell treatment for osteoarthritis as "astonishing."
The researchers from Manchester ­University, funded by Arthritis Research UK, have succeeded in transforming stem cells from IVF ­clinics into cartilage cells. Within three weeks, the cartilage was virtually as good as new, says the Express.
The stem cells, which were first introduced to rats suffering the disease, quickly multiplied into healthy cartilage, without side effects.
Professor Sue Kimber, who led the research, said
"Developing and testing this process in rats is the first step in generating the information needed to run a study in people with arthritis.” The scientists said they hope to begin treating human patients within 5 years.
Medical News Today reported that,
"After 4 weeks the cartilage was partially repaired. After 12 weeks, the cartilage surface was smooth and similar in appearance to normal cartilage." It was also found that the cells continued to be active thereafter.
Professor Kimber stated that,
“This work represents an important step forward in treating cartilage damage using embryonic stem cells to form new tissue."
“It may offer a new line of therapy for people with crippling joint pain and we now need this process to be developed for patients.”
Osteoarthritis can be a devastating and degenerative disease which attacks the knee, hip, fingers and lower back. It can leave sufferers in constant pain and stiffness in the joints. Until now the only been treatments have been pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs, which have mixed results and frequently unpleasant side effects.
Some patients have joint replacement operations, but cartilage regeneration through stem cell surgery would be a "safe and effective treatment" for millions of people, the study says. It would also be much cheaper than current remedies.
Medical News Today also explains that another way of treating the disease is to use adult stem cells instead of embryonic ones. However, the report says this has disadvantages,
"Adult stem cells are found in certain "niches" in the body, says MNT, "and are not as controversial as embryonic stem cells but their potential is not so great." This is because "they cannot currently be produced in large amounts and the procedure is expensive."
The study was published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine. Science Daily quotes Dr Stephen Simpson, of Arthritis Research UK, on hopes for the research,
“Embryonic stem cells offer an alternative source of ­cartilage cells to adult stem cells and we’re excited about the immense ­potential of Professor Kimber’s work and the impact it could have.”
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