Arthritis Research UK scientists have succeeded in producing cartilage formed from embryonic stem cells that could in future be used to treat cartilage injuries and the painful joint condition osteoarthritis.
Professor Sue Kimber and her team in the Faculty of Life Sciences at The University of Manchester have developed a protocol under strict
laboratory conditions to grow and transform embryonic stem cells into cartilage cells (also known as chondrocytes).
Professor Sue KimberProfessor Kimber said: “This work represents an important step forward in treating cartilage damage by using embryonic stem cells to form new tissue, although it’s still in its early experimental stages.”
Their research was published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine. During the study, the team analysed the ability of embryonic stems cells to become precursor cartilage cells. They were then implanted into cartilage defects in the knee joints of rats.
After four weeks cartilage was partially repaired
After four weeks cartilage was partially repaired and following 12 weeks a smooth surface, which appeared similar to normal cartilage, was observed.
Further study of this newly regenerated cartilage showed that cartilage cells from embryonic stem cells were still present and active within the tissue.
Developing and testing this protocol in rats is the first step in generating the information needed to run a study in people with arthritis. Before this will be possible more data will need to be collected to check that this protocol is effective and that there are no toxic side-effects.
But researchers say that this study is very promising as not only did this protocol generate new, healthy-looking cartilage but also importantly there were no signs of any side-effects such as growing abnormal or disorganised, joint tissue or tumours.
Further work will build on this finding and demonstrate that this could be a safe and effective treatment for people with joint damage.
Chondrocytes created from adult stem cells are currently being experimentally used but as they cannot be currently be produced in large amounts the procedure is expensive.
Read full article on the Arthritis Research UK website