Most large joints of the body contain cartilage, a substance that is softer and more flexible than bone. Because of its softness and flexibility, cartilage is well-suited to protect the bones as they move across one another. Unfortunately, this softness and flexibility also
Once the cartilage of joints has become damaged, there is little that can be done to fix it. Patients may receive steroid injections into the joint to reduce inflammation, and may rely on pain medications to relieve the pain and swelling. Short of joint replacement therapy, no treatments can reverse cartilage damage once it has occurred.
Fortunately, mesenchymal stem cells may soon be able to reverse cartilage defects that arise from osteochondral lesions and osteoarthritis. Wakitani and colleagues took samples of patients’ bone marrow, which contains mesenchymal stem cells. They then used various laboratory techniques to increase the number of stem cells in the sample. Four
Research continues to determine which stem cells are most useful, how many stem cells should be injected, how many injections need to be administered, and how should those stem cells be prepared before they are injected? Nonetheless, certain groups are making great strides in this area. In fact, the recent discovery of human skeletal stem cells promises to accelerate stem cell research into treating disorders of bone and cartilage.
Schmitt et al. (2012). Application of Stem Cells in Orthopedics. Stem Cells International. 2012: 394962