Treatments for knee osteoarthritis (OA) have not changed much over the last couple of decades. Surgery is still the most common treatment for those suffering from severe cartilage degeneration – while more holistic treatment options (such as physical therapy, knee braces, and joint fluid therapy) are growing in popularity as patients become more educated about the disease.
The newest treatment available to help those suffering with OA is Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy, a form of regenerative medicine which treats knee pain by mimicking the body’s natural healing process. PRP uses the patient’s own blood to deliver a high concentration of reparative platelets to the damaged knee.
This technology has been used to treat knee injuries in professional athletes for years, and it has recently been shown to reduce pain in Osteoarthritis patients as well.
PRP has revolutionized the treatment of knee pain – and the ultimate goal of this branch of medicine is to one day be able to regenerate healthy tissue to replace the damaged
Recent Discoveries in Stem Cell Research
Believe it or not, this ability may be closer than we think. An exciting new study out of the UK represents an important step forward in treating OA – by demonstrating the ability to transform stem cells into cartilage.
The study was conducted on rats, so we’re still a ways away from human testing – but the results are promising. To conduct the study, researchers at the Faculty of Life Sciences at The University of Manchester analyzed the ability of embryonic stem cells to become precursor cartilage cells. The team then watched to see how those cells behaved when they were put in the knee joints of rats affected by cartilage damage.
They found that at 4 weeks after implantation, partial damage repair could be seen. After 12 weeks they observed a “smooth surface… similar to normal cartilage”. This is significant – since not only did it successfully generate healthy cartilage, but there were also no side effects observed in the rats.
While the science to utilize this type of procedure for humans is still far off, it is a huge step in the direction of one day being able to repair knee cartilage by replacing it with new healthy tissue – and important news for anyone suffering from Osteoarthritis.