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Hope for osteoarthritis patients

11th April 2008

Scientists say they have made a breakthrough which has the potential to see stem cells offer a way to repair cartilage damaged by osteoarthritis.

The team from Cardiff University say it has identified a type of stem cell which can be transformed into cartilage cells known as chondrocytes.

Presenting their work to the UK National Stem Cell Network Annual Science Meeting, they said in theory, it should be possible to create new chondrocytes in enough numbers to achieve a therapeutic effect for osteoarthritis patients.

A current method of treatment for younger patients is to harvest cartilage cells from neighbouring healthy cartilage and transplant them into the damaged area.

There is a limit to the number of cells that can be generated in this way but the Cardiff scientists say the cell identified by them is at a more advanced stage. While it has lost some of its plasticity, it has retained its ability to become a chondrocyte if cultured in the right way.

Lead researcher Professor Charlie Archer said: “We have identified a cell which, when grown in the lab, can produce enough of a person’s own cartilage that it could be effectively transplanted.?

He said the research could have real benefits for arthritis sufferers, particularly younger active patients with cartilage lesions that can progress to whole scale osteoarthritis.

Clinical trials could start as early as next year.

The Arthritis Research Campaign, which part-funded the study, said if these successes from the laboratory could be translated into treating patients it could have a “remarkable impact? on osteoarthritis.

 

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