New injectable cell therapy shows promise for treating osteoarthritis

New injectable cell therapy shows promise for treating osteoarthritis
New injectable cell therapy shows promise for treating osteoarthritis

New York: Scientists have created a promising injectable cell therapy for the treatment of osteoarthritis that both reduces inflammation and regenerates articular cartilage.

Recently recognized as a public health crisis by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), osteoarthritis affects more than 520 million people worldwide who deal with pain and inflammation.

Osteoarthritis is usually induced by mechanical or traumatic stress to the joint, causing damaged cartilage that cannot be repaired naturally.

“Without a better understanding of the onset and progression of osteoarthritis, effective treatments have been limited,” said lead author Johanna Bolander from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) in North Carolina.

“Initially, we studied what goes wrong in osteoarthritic joints, compared these processes to the functional environment, and used this information to develop immunotherapy cell treatments,” Bolander said.

Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joint system. When an injury occurs in a healthy joint, the body recruits an army of inflammatory cells and sends them to the site of injury to contribute to cleaning up the damaged tissue. In an osteoarthritic joint, however, a traumatic injury causes inflammation of the synovial membrane and cartilage damage.

“Over time, the inflammation gets worse, causing cartilage erosion in the bones of the joints and chronic inflammation in the surrounding tissue. For patients, it causes severe pain, swelling and often limits daily activities,” said study co-author Gary Poehling, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.

For this study, published in the journal Science Advances, the research team set out to investigate what is happening in the osteoarthritic joint environment that prevents the healing process from occurring.

The team isolated cells from the joint fluid of osteoarthritis patients, isolated the cells from the fluid and examined them alone, but also in the presence of autologous fluid. Separated from the fluid, they observed that the cells had the ability to undergo the processes needed to repair functional tissue.

When they added a small percentage of the fluid back into the cell culture assay, the cells’ abilities were impaired — they couldn’t do their job — suggesting that the typical osteoarthritic environment inhibits them.

Based on these findings and what is known about functional tissue repair, a cell therapy was designed that could overcome the inflammatory environment and also regenerate cartilage.

In pre-clinical models, the therapy was found to have the ability to reverse cartilage damage and reduce inflammation. Another study was conducted in nine patients with confirmed osteoarthritis, who each received one or two injections.

Once treated, patients experienced improved quality of life, ability to participate in recreational activities, and less pain as well as cartilage regeneration.

The team suggested additional clinical studies to evaluate the results in larger patient populations.

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