Thursday, February 09, 2006

Adult Stem Cells Give New Hope to Arthritis Sufferers

From Health Day News (via Forbes online magazine) comes yet another example of how promising is the field of "adult" stem cell research...

Researchers say they have turned adult muscle stem cells into cartilage, and used them in animals to heal the kind of damage caused by arthritis. That is potentially good news for the many people who now face joint-replacement surgery because there is no available technique to repair cartilage damage from osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear condition that afflicts many older people.

The transformed cells have successfully replaced damaged cartilage in rats for as long as 24 weeks, much longer than has been reported in studies using other methods, according to a report in the February issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Experiments aimed at extending the benefit to 48 weeks are in the planning stage, with an eye out for human trials, said study leader Johnny Huard, director of the Growth and Development Laboratory at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"Over the years, a lot of people have tried to use cells to repair cartilage, which doesn't repair by itself," said Huard. "So far, nobody has been able to repair cartilage with those cells. In this study, we found a population of stem cells in skeletal muscle that we give a boost with a protein so they differentiate into cartilage cells. Then we can repair cartilage damage in our animal model."