Cartilage from fat tissue stem cells may help avoid total knee replacements

Published: Jul. 29, 2016 at 3:13 PM EDT
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A University of Arizona researcher is growing cartilage from stem cells taken from fat tissue.

He says that cartilage could repair small defects and large areas of damage seen in many arthritis patients and that one day, it could eliminate the need to put plastic and metal in people's knees.

Cindy Laughren walks with Ellie, her dog, to ease arthritis pain in one of her knees.

Cindy said, "It can be very painful. It is definitely very restricting. It's one of those things that I have to take into account every single day."

A few miles away at the University of Arizona, Dr. John Szivek is growing cartilage that someday might help patients like Cindy avoid a total knee replacement. He puts the stem cells on tiny scaffolds after extracting them from fat tissue and removing non-functional stem cells.

Dr. Szivek said, "We're hoping that using a purer stem cell batch, if you want to think of it that way, we'll produce more consistent results and produce results that we can see in patients that have a lot of damage."

The scaffold is identical to the bone surface the new cartilage will eventually cover. Dr. Szivek says side effects will be minimal, since it's the patient's own cells. They should recover faster, and the repair should last a lifetime.

"To have something in between that would avoid that total knee joint replacement would be huge," said Cindy.

Szivek says it'll be a few years before the cartilage scaffolding system moves out of his lab and into human trials.



TOPIC: Using Fat to Build Better Cartilage in Knees

REPORT: MB #4124

BACKGROUND: Arthritis affects over 50 million Americans and it is the number one cause of disability in the country. It is the inflammation of one or more joints and the main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. Treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis and the main goal of these treatments is to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.


TYPES OF ARTHRITIS: There are several different kinds of arthritis. However, the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Osteoarthritis causes the breakdown of cartilage that covers the ends of bones. It is sometimes called degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis and is the most common chronic condition of the joints. Symptoms of OA, which usually include pain and stiffness, usually occur first thing in the morning or after resting. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that first targets the lining of joints and since RA is a systemic disease, it may also affect organs and body systems.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: New findings could change the way doctors treat arthritis patients. Doctors are now using fat tissue stem cells to grow cartilage to repair joints damaged from arthritis. This could possibly eliminate the need for total joint surgery. Researchers at the University of Arizona most recently have also developed a way to concentrate the stem cells from the pool of cells they extract from fat. The cells that are extracted from the fat tissue contain about 45 percent stem cells at the most and the rest of the other cells could not only be not useful but also potentially cause problems for the patient. Some of these cells can cause blood vessel formation in the cartilage which can cause it to calcify into bone.

(Source: Dr. John Szivek)


Jean Spinelli


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