Stem cell therapy may help knees – Citizens Voice

By JoanneRUSSELL25

Q: I read that you can use your own stem cells to rejuvenate worn-out knees. Does this really work?

A: Worn out is a good way to term what happens to the knee joint with prolonged use. Lets look at how this happens, starting with cartilage.

The lower portion of the knee joint (at the tibia) contains shock absorbers called menisci made of cartilage. You have one on the inner portion and another on the outer portion of each knee. The upper portion of the knee joint (at the femur) is lined with cartilage as well. All of this cartilage helps protect the bones at the joint but it doesnt heal or regenerate well due to limited blood supply. When severe, worn cartilage leads to arthritis of the knee. In knee X-rays of people over age 60, 37 percent have shown evidence of arthritis of the knees.

The intriguing thing about stem cells is that they have the ability to become any type of cell that the body needs. The cells used for stem cell injections in the knees are called mesenchymal stem cells, and they can differentiate into bone, fat or cartilage cells. These stem cells can come from the fat cells of your body, from your bone marrow or from the inner lining of your knee joint; theyre then replicated in the laboratory and injected into the knee joint.

Heres what the research shows so far.

In a 2013 study, 32 patients with meniscal tears of the knee were injected with a combination of stem cells, platelet-rich plasma and hyaluronic acid. The study reported improved symptoms and even MRI evidence of meniscal cartilage regeneration.

In a 2014 study, 55 patients who had surgery for meniscal tears of the knees were separated into three groups, with two of the groups receiving stem cell injections. Researchers found that, after six weeks, pain had decreased substantially in the two groups that received stem cell injections and that the decrease was even greater at one and two years after the injection.

In a 2017 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers analyzed six studies that used stem cells for osteoarthritis of the knees. In five of the studies, stem cells were given after surgery to the knee; in the other study, stem cells from a donor were administered without surgery. All the studies showed reduced pain and improved knee function. Further, in three of the four trials, MRIs corroborated the cartilage improvements.

There may be benefit to stem cell injections for cartilage loss of the knees, but more data are needed. Id also like to see more data on this type of therapy as a preventive measure for younger patients before their knees are worn out.

ASK THE DOCTORS is written by Robert Ashley, M.D., Eve Glazier, M.D., and Elizabeth Ko, M.D. Send questions to askthedoctors@

mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095.

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Stem cell therapy may help knees – Citizens Voice

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