New research uses stem cells as possible treatment for arthritis
Published Friday, August 17, 2012 8:36AM EDT
A Toronto research team hopes to make hip and knee replacements a thing of the past as it explores the growth of new human cartilage using stem cells.
With an estimated four million Canadians suffering from arthritis, and that number expected to grow to seven million by 2031, doctors are hoping to use the stem cells to treat the deterioration of cartilage in joints. “Although hip and knee replacements are a great operation, they improve patients’ lives in terms of pain, quality and function, they’re not your own joint,” Dr. Nizar Mahomed told CTV’s Canada AM on Friday. “They don’t last forever and they bring risks and limitations.”
Mahomed, an orthopedic surgeon at Toronto’s Western Hospital, said 45,000 hip and knee replacement surgeries are performed in Canada each year. Many of the surgeries are to treat the damage left by arthritis, which he said is caused by aging, obesity and injuries.
“The incident of arthritis increases with age, so as our population ages the prevalence of arthritis is going to continue to increase.”
Mahomed and his colleagues are one of the first research teams in the world that have been able to grow human cartilage.
The team is now embarking on the next stage of the study, which will see the new tissue used in animals.
“If we actually make it work in animals then one day we’ll be able to bring it back into patients,” said Mahomed.
He added that stem cells hold much hope for medicine in the future as studies are looking at using the cells to regenerate cardiac tissue and in the treatment of nerve and spinal cord injuries.
Mahomed said he hopes within five to 10 years the new technology can be used in human patients while putting an end to joint replacement surgeries.
“We’re working to put ourselves out of business,” he quipped.