There was exciting news out of the medical world earlier this week. Scientists have developed a way for stem cells to grow new cartilage on a scaffold shaped like the ball of a hip joint. What does that mean exactly? It means new research shows that it may be possible to avoid or delay hip replacements by repairing a damaged hip joint. To do this, they would create new cartilage using a patient’s adipose stem cells derived from liposuction. Although this study is in the early stages, it is a remarkable breakthrough in orthopedic and osteoarthritis research.
Project lead, Dr. Farshid Guilak, is a professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and an Arthritis Foundation grant recipient. Dr. Guilak received 2012-2013 Innovative Research Grant as well as one of the two 2014 Arthritis Foundation Investigator Awards, which helped to fund this very study.
This discovery may one day provide an alternative to hip replacement surgery, which is welcome news to all patients with osteoarthritis, for whom hip replacement is often required when severe joint pain and damage continues to interfere with daily activity.
In some ways the new cartilage may be better than the original. Since inflammation remains a concern even after replacement, the scientists discovered a way to engineer the new cartilage to release anti-inflammatory proteins. These proteins would then serve to reduce the inflammation protecting the new cartilage.
Guy S. Eakin, Arthritis Foundation Senior Vice President, Scientific Strategy weighs in, “The results thus far from this study are very exciting for the arthritis community and we could see revolutionary results down the road. The Arthritis Foundation is very proud of Dr. Farshid Guilak and his team, and we’re honored we could play a role. This is truly the next generation of treatment for joint replacements.”
According to the CDC, 332,000 hip replacements are made in the US every year. A hip made of living tissue may last longer or, at the very least, delay traditional hip replacements.
Some customized implants are currently being tested in laboratory animals. If all goes well, Dr. Guilak and his team could be ready for safety testing in humans in three to five years.
The Arthritis Foundation could not be prouder to be a part of this exciting – and potentially revolutionary – study. The excitement in the medical industry surrounding this study is great news for the arthritis community and those living with osteoarthritis. We hope to provide an update on this important research in early 2017.
Photo credit: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis