Key stem cells for repairing knee joints

Key stem cells for repairing knee joints.

Key stem cells for repairing knee joints

In current society, the prevalence of knee joint injuries has increased considerably during the last decades. The experts say that this may be due to the fact that obesity and life expectancy are increasing worldwide, and these are known to be risk factors for knee joint injuries. Likewise, the incidence of diseases like arthritis and osteoarthritis are increasing (more than 3532 per-100000 people/year are diagnosed with a knee injury only in the United States of America).

Current treatments for knee joint usually help to relieve the symptoms temporarily, this can be explained by the fact that, in most cases, the doctor can’t fix the injury without undergoing invasive treatments, so the symptoms return, and more medication is needed each time to control them. In fact, many patients need to undergo surgery in advanced stages of the disease to experience an adequate relief of the symptoms.

This has lead researchers and experts in the area to investigate the new regeneration therapies, especially those which involve the use of the stem cells. A 5-year study performed in the University of Aberdeen's Center for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health showed that stem cells present in some joints, such as the knee joint, have the capability of regenerating themselves and naturally repairing the damaged cartilage.

These researchers have also identified a protein that seems to be involved in the cartilage and synovial membrane repairing process, called Yap. These experts said that this protein can be found in a higher concentration in stem cells activated by some joint injuries. So, stem cells with high concentrations of this protein may be the key stem cells for repairing knee joints.

When the degenerative process exceeds the regenerative capability of these tissues, the natural stem cells can't repair all the damaged structures by themselves. When this happens, the joints become weaker, painful and less functional. The experts have investigated the effect of the different stem cells types in the promotion of musculoskeletal tissues healing (including the joint tendons, ligaments, cartilages and bones) and they have found that key stem cells for repairing knee joints are the mesenchymal stem cells (also known by its acronyms MSCs).

The MSCs cells are usually obtained from the patient's/donor bone marrow, the umbilical cord blood, the adipose tissue and the molar cells (especially the mandibular third molar).

One great advantage of this kind of treatment is the fact that the process to obtain the mesenchymal stem cells is easy to perform. In general terms, the procedure consists in obtaining the stem cells from the patient's own body or from a donor, processing them in a specialized laboratory (the obtained material is centrifuged to concentrate and purify the stem cells) and reinjecting them in the affected area.

A preparation of your concentrated platelets is also gathered at this time for injection into the injury site to release growth factors that “turn on” the stem cells which will later be injected. To be completely sure that stem cells injections have been performed in the exact area which is injured, the doctor can use the fluoroscopy technique or MSK (musculoskeletal) Ultrasound.

After what has been said, it is easy to understand that stem cells must be obtained from any of the human body areas where they remain in reserve. However, it is very important to highlight that MSCs are mainly obtained from the umbilical cord blood and the bone marrow (especially from the back of the hip area or the iliac bone).

At this point, it is very important to say that the researchers of the study mentioned above also concluded that certain adult stem cells of the knee joints have "memory" about the joint tissues formation process. So, although these stem cells must be more studied, it seems that they can be as good, or even better than mesenchymal stem cells for the knee joint repairing and maintenance in the adulthood.

Using the key stem cells for repairing knee joints can also have many benefits for the patients. Stem cells injections are a non-invasive treatment, which can be performed in a single day, and which can be used as an excellent alternative in those patients who have a high surgical risk or don't want to undergo a total joint replacement.

Another important advantage of using stem cells injections for repairing knee joints is the fact that the patient doesn't experience painful rehabilitation periods, and he/she can return to his/her current activities after the procedure. Likewise, with this therapy, the patient usually recovers the knee joint strength, mobility and range of motion, obtaining equal or better results than with conventional surgery.

These experts agree that knowing and studying these cells more deeply, allows them to be in a better position to use them favorably and to stimulate them with certain drugs or any other kind of treatments.

In fact, the main reason of using these key stem cells for repairing knee joints is the fact that the researches of the study mentioned above said that these stem cells seem to be a good option for treating the knee damage caused by diseases like arthritis even from the early stages, so the knee joint can maintain its functionality for more years in these patients.

Although more studies are needed to prove this theory, the experts say that using these key stem cells for repairing knee joints can give extra energy to the cells which are aging and losing their function. So, it can be used as a treatment for preventing the knee joint damage.

Finally, patients who undergo this kind of treatment have less risk to develop severe complications like blood clots, extensive infections, adverse reactions to anesthesia, among others.

Remember that only a qualified doctor can determine if stem cells injections are an adequate treatment for each person according to his/her particular needs and general health condition. So, it is always necessary to look for an expert's advice.

Dr. Curt Collins