Health Medical

New injectable cell therapy shows promise in treating osteoarthritis

HQ Team

April 24, 2023: Scientists at the of Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) in the US have developed an injectable cell therapy, which they say reduces inflammation and also regenerates the cartilage in people suffering from osteoarthritis.

Over 520 million people worldwide suffer from joint pains related to osteoarthritis. “We studied what goes wrong in osteoarthritic joints, compared these processes to functional environments, and used this information to develop an immunotherapy cell treatment,” said lead author Johanna Bolander.

Stressed joints and inflammation

In a normal healthy joint, there is a lubricating fluid present in the connective tissues lining the joints that facilitate free movement. But in a stressed joint, the body produces inflammatory cells that gather to ease the damaged tissue linings.

“With time, the inflammation worsens, leading to degradation of the cartilage lining the joint bones and chronic inflammation in the surrounding tissues. For patients, this causes severe pain, swelling and often limits daily activities,” said study co-author Gary Poehling, an orthopedic surgeon at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.

Cell therapy for osteoarthritis

For the study, the team isolated cells from the joint fluid of osteoarthritic patients and investigated them alone, and also in the presence of the autologous fluid. In an isolated environment, the cells had the ability to repair.

When they added a small percentage of the fluid back into the cell culture, the cells’ abilities were impaired, suggesting that the specific osteoarthritic environment stops them. Based on these findings and previous inflammatory tissue repair, a cell therapy was designed to combat the inflammation and also the ability to regenerate cartilage.

“Cartilage activated immune cells that target inflammation, combined with progenitor cells aid tissue regeneration,” said Anthony Atala, senior author and director of WFIRM. “It’s really a dynamic communication between these two cell populations that are crucial for the efficacy of the treatment,” Atala said. The cell therapy was tested on some patients ( pre-clinical tests)and was found to have the ability to reverse cartilage damage in the synovial membrane and diminish the inflammation as well.

Another study was conducted in nine patients with confirmed osteoarthritis who each received one or two injections. The efficacy of the therapy was determined based on the reduction in pain and quality of life and functionality of the joints. The patients experienced improved quality of life, and reduced pain, the researchers said. Additionally, MRI studies confirmed cartilage regeneration, they added.

The study was published in the Science Advances journal.


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