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Study Shows Stem Cells Are Able to Prevent Post-traumatic Arthritis


Study Shows Stem Cells Are Able to Prevent Post-traumatic Arthritis

A new study led by scientists from the Duke University reveals a new stem cell therapy that is capable of preventing the onset of osteoarthritis after a joint injury. The risk of osteoarthritis increases after joint injury. The form of osteoarthritis that appears after injuries is called post-traumatic arthritis (PTA). Currently there are no known therapies that can slow down the progression of arthritis once joint injury occurs.

Scientists from the Duke University Health System have discovered a new therapeutic approach towards post-traumatic arthritis by using a type of stem cell called MSC (mesenchymal stem cell). In their study, researchers used laboratory mice that suffered various fractures that would normally lead to the onset of osteoarthritis. The results of the study might lead to the development of a new therapy that will be used after the joint injury but before any signs of osteoarthritis appear.

Researchers assumed that these mesenchymal stem cells would have a positive effect of preventing the onset of post-traumatic osteoarthritis due to their already other beneficial properties in the other regions of the organism. “The stem cells were able to prevent post-traumatic arthritis”, said Farshid Guilak, who is also the director of orthopedic research at Duke University. The findings of the study were published on the 10th of August in the journal Cell Transplantation.



 Another assumption made by the researchers was that by using a special type of laboratory mice that have increased healing capabilities, the effect of the stem cells would be greater. However, this assumption was later proven to be wrong.

Brian Diekman, the lead author of the study, says that the research team wanted to investigate whether the stem cells take from this special breed of laboratory mice are superior to the ones taken from ordinary mice. The study has shown that the effects of the two types of stem cells are very much similar. ” We were surprised “ and excited “ to learn that regular stem cells work just as well”, added Diekman.

Guilak, who is also a professor of orthopedic surgery at the Duke University said that there are certain types of people who also have these increased healing capabilities. These patients normally heal better and faster after fractures and some of the don’t even suffer from post-traumatic osteoarthritis. He added that this increased healing ability could be caused by some other beneficial factor and not by stem cells.

In order to prevent the onset of  post-traumatic osteoarthritis, each mouse received either 10,000 typical or 10,000 special stem cells. There was also a control group that received a saline solution. Diekman reported that the research team studied the  markers of inflammation and discovered that the stem cells affected the inflammatory environment. He said that the stem cells altered the levels of cytokines (protein molecules that have an important role in intercellular communication), thus altering the bone healing response.

The authors of the study mentioned that they used mesenchymal stem cells, instead of other stem cells, because these are stem cells that do not later become part of the blood. One challenge that they encountered is the possibility of isolating these specific stem cells, which are a rare cell type found in the bone marrow.  “We found that by placing the stem cells into low-oxygen conditions, they would grow more rapidly in culture so that we could deliver enough of them to make a difference therapeutically”, said Diekman.