Knee pain caused by osteoarthritis can impact mobility and lead to ongoing discomfort. The first line of treatment typically includes methods for alleviating pain, such as prescription or over-the-counter pain medications and physical therapy. Thereafter, corticosteroid injections may be used. Finally, in the worst cases, surgical interventions may be recommended.
Unfortunately, many people with persistent knee pain will go on to have continual pain even after these treatments are leveraged. Ultimately, a full knee replacement may be suggested as the only long-term treatment. Today, however, there’s another option to consider: regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy. This option has the potential to halt or delay arthritic damage, regenerate cartilage, and delay or prevent the need for a knee replacement.
The Challenges of Knee Damage
Cartilage damage in the knees is particularly difficult to treat because the tissue is largely unable to repair itself. The articular cartilage, in specific, is responsible for minimizing stress to the bones in the knee and ensuring the joint surfaces glide smoothly. Sports such as skiing rely on articular cartilage, as do any activities requiring the absorption of shock.
Over time, osteoarthritis wears away at the cartilage in the knee joint. While the condition can be prompted by a previous knee injury, such as tendon or ligament damage, it may also result from general wear and tear. This deterioration can cause poor joint stability and wear away bone underneath the cartilage.
Stem Cell Therapy for Cartilage Repair in the Knees
Emerging results from pre-clinical and clinical trials suggest mesenchymal stem cells could be a viable strategy for repairing cartilage. These cells act as the foundation for all cell types and can transform into different types of tissue, including cartilage. When injected, they target injured and inflamed areas. With the ability to regulate immunity and repair damaged tissue, they offer a promising option for treating cartilage degeneration.
Stem cells can be derived from a patient’s bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue, or donated umbilical cord-derived tissue. Some factors can determine which may be most beneficial for a patient. In some cases, the treatment can also be combined with hyaluronic acid and/or platelet-rich plasma, in which platelets are concentrated from the blood and re-injected into the patient for their strong growth factors.
While results will vary from patient to patient, many patients in clinical trials who have undergone stem cell therapy for cartilage repair report reduced pain levels. Results show regenerated knee cartilage, as well as an ability to avoid knee surgery. The treatment is already being leveraged by some professional athletes, and as further research is conducted, stem cell therapy is positioned to become an effective alternative to surgery in the future.
This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for the joints, also known as stem cell therapy for joints! Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.