Treating arthritis with stem cells

By Friday April 29th, 2016Medicine and Technology, News
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Arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the joints joint due to unknown causes. The disease is more frequent in women than in men, and can occur at any age. The symptoms are the same as an inflammation, such as redness, swelling, pain, and joint stiffness. The disease may appear in a more or less severe way, until it reaches other organs and systems, causing serious complications. Currently, the treatments – which vary depending on the stage of the disease – are different types of drugs such as DMARDs (Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs), corticosteroids and painkillers, together with a constant physiotherapy. In more severe cases, it is necessary to resort to surgery to replace the damaged joint. However, this operation has been proved to be more effective in adults or the elderly than in young people and in athletes who suffered a trauma because of sport activities.

Researchers at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, led by Dr. Sue Kimber, are testing a final treatment for arthritis by exploiting the potential of stem cells. Starting from human embryonic stem cells, the team has managed to create chondrogenic progenitor cells (those that form cartilage) in laboratory. Thanks to their great ability to reproduce, these cells can be manipulated to create any type of mature cell; their production is not so expensive and therefore they can be applicable to a large number of patients who suffer from arthritis.

The study published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine showed positive results. After implanting stem cells into damaged joints, the researchers noticed partial improvements in the lesions after just four weeks. Twelve weeks after, the cartilage appeared perfectly repaired. The result has proved to be reliable over time, as the regenerated cells were still in perfect health. Furthermore, there were no sign of abnormal or disorganized growth, which would be a symptom of cancer.

Sue Kimber, leader of the research team, explains: “This work represents an important step forward in treating cartilage damage by using embryonic stem cells to form new tissue, although it is still in its early experimental stages”.

Cecilia Natale

About Cecilia Natale

Cecilia is a translator. She has a bachelor degree in Intercultural and linguistic communication and a master degree in Specialized translation, both obtained at the University of Bologna – Forlì Branch. She loves travelling, reading, writing and she never gets tired of discovering new places and cultures. She’s from Porto San Giorgio, a small city near the sea in the region Marche, in Italy. After various academic experiences in Barcelona, the city has become her second home.

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