Although there have been many therapies developed over the past few decades for rheumatoid arthritis, none have seen as promising as stem cell therapy for knees and osteoarthritis.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis, also referred to as OA, is one of the most common types of arthritis. It affects over 25 million people every year. This disease affects the articular cartilage; this is the gristle that provides a cap over the long bones in the body.
Cartilage does not only act as a glider, it also acts as a shock absorber. It is this type of flexible properties that allow joints to operate correctly and efficiently.
Normal cartilage in the body is made up of cells that are called chondrocytes. These cells sit in a type of matrix that is composed of glycosaminoglycan and collagen. It is similar to fruit that is suspended in gelatin.
How Does Osteoarthritis Develop?
The disease develops when the cells inside of the cartilage, chondrocytes, begin to malfunction. Instead of releasing healthy enzymes, these cells release destructive enzymes. During this time, the water content that is inside of the matrix also changes and makes it more susceptible to stress. As a result, small cracks, or fissures, begin to develop in the bone.
Inflammation around the knee joint also begins to develop. The wearing away of the cartilage is both gradual and premature. The wearing away of the cartilage is most apparent in the weight bearing joints such as:
- Low back
Traditional Treatment Options
Some of the most common approaches to treat osteoarthritis is involves NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), analgesics (pain relieving medications), physical therapy, injections, exercise, weight management and surgery.
Even though the majority of these treatment options do help to eliminate pain and reduce inflammation, they do not address the underlying cause which is the loss of cartilage. They also do not help to improve or restore the lost cartilage.
There are some orthopedic techniques like chondrocyte transplantation. This type of procedure is generally more successful on a younger person who has sustained a small amount of cartilage loss due to injury. However, this may not be the best solution for an older person.
Stem Cell Therapy
In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in stem cell therapy and how it can be a useful technique to treat osteoarthritis. Stem cells are considered pluripotential cells. These are cells that can be transformed into any type of tissue when they are exposed to the right type of stimulus.
A lot of controversy has surrounded the harvesting of stem cells from embryotic tissue. They can also be obtained from older adults. There are a small percentage of stem cells in many of the tissues in the adult human body.
These stem cells are generally activated during times of injury or illness. However, these cells generally do not have the ability to differentiate as they do when they are removed from embryotic tissue.
Stem cell therapy for knees appears to have very promising results for those who are suffering with osteoarthritis. Cartilage regeneration can help alleviate pain for millions of arthritis sufferers.