Most effective treatment for arthritis?
Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more joints. It can be broadly divided into two areas; one is inflammatory arthritis such as Rheumatoid arthritis where your body is in an inflammatory condition and chemicals in the joint damage the cartilage. The other one is Arthritis proper, the one that most of us encounter due to daily wear and tear, damage incurred by us due to heavy workouts, your genes or just taking care of your loved ones!
Stem cells provide hopes for mitigating the risks associated with Arthritis or even so reversing the damage. However, more solid researches are to be conducted on this new therapy of regenerative medicine.
Regenerative medicine, an interdisciplinary field of life sciences that can potentially regenerate live tissues and the whole organ, that is subjected to damage due to age, disease, accidents or congenital conditions. Various processes like plasma therapy, bone marrow transplantation has been bagged under this interdisciplinary field. Now, the progress made in Stem cell generation reinvigorated the field more than ever.
WHAT ARE STEM CELLS?
You must be wondering, where do the story of stem cells even start?
We have to go back when the sperm and the egg fuse to form a zygote, which continues to divide into a hollow mass of cells known as ‘blastocyst’.
- Inside the blastocyst, we have our Embryonic stem cells i.e., inner cell mass. This bunch of cell has the potency to differentiate into more than 200 types of cells as we grow up.
- The other type is the Somatic stem cell found in bone marrow or adipose tissue, which has a repair purpose in our body.
- The third source is Cord blood stem cells that is obtained from the umbilical cord after childbirth. It can be stored in cell banks for future use. These cells were successfully used for the treatment of congenital disorders in the kids, such as, leukemia.
HOW ARE STEM CELLS USED IN ARTHRITIS?
The somatic stem cells are harvested out of the patient’s body under medical supervision and are cultured in the lab over time. Upon injection, these cells travel to injured sites and release several regenerative factors such as vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF), fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) among many.
Stem cell therapy aims to:-
- Repair and support new tissue generation.
- Reduce inflammation in the joint altogether.
- Release proteins that retard the degeneration of the cartilage cells and decrease pain and associated symptoms.
Like many other novel therapies, it is speculated that either of these three or all three processes are at work.
IS STEM CELL THERAPY REALLY USEFUL AND WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
The research into stem cells and its potency to treat arthritis have shown promise of curing the diseases. However, it is not free from challenges. For a start, the stem cells behave differently in vivo and in vitro, so the outcome received from experiments conducted in laboratories may not translate in the same way under actual body conditions. A couple of stem cell therapies showed limited success in cartilage regrowth. It is a tough task to reproduce the natural vigor of joint cartilage with stem cells.
Stem cell therapy requires skilled professionals for the handling of Mesenchymal stem cells. The storage process comes with its own challenges: – a decrease in vitality and expression were observed. Mesenchymal stem cells will enter a state of senescence. This is a double-edges feature, as it may lower the risk of malignant tumors, but limit the therapeutic use of stem cells.
Regenerative stem cell therapy seems to be ideal for the replacement of cartilage and other damaged joint tissues, however, strong evidence are still lacking. Large scale, prospective clinical studies are being conducted at internationally renowned institutions, 69 cell therapies are undergoing clinical trials under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including 15 in phase 3 trials as stated by a 2013 report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Guidelines have been laid down so that the funding received by National Institutes of Health (NIH) are morally responsible and scientifically relevant. There are no hard and fast rule and these guidelines are subject to change. Publicly available information about federally and privately funded clinical research studies involving stem cells can be found at http://clinicaltrials.gov. However, the FDA cautions that the information available on the site is provided by the product sponsors.
The currently available treatments primarily revolve around symptom management and is thus palliative rather than curative. With demonstrable safety and solid evidence supporting the effectiveness of stem cell therapy for arthritis, potentially this disease could be treated in the future. Hence, it is of utmost importance to seek help from your medical practitioner and gather as much knowledge as you can. The aim of the article is to provide an overview into the future aspects and limitations of regenerative stem cell therapy, especially in the treatment of arthritis and other variations of the same. You are welcome to engage in healthy discussions regarding what you think about this approach and how fast will we witness the first-ever stem cell therapy for arthritis?