Stem cell therapy could also potentially treat osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee. In OA, the cartilage covering the ends of the bones starts to deteriorate and wear away. As the bones lose this protective covering, they start to rub against one another. This leads to pain, swelling, and stiffness — and, ultimately, loss of function and mobility. Millions of people in the United States live with OA of the knee. Many manage their symptoms through exercise, weight loss, medical treatments, and lifestyle modification. There is evidence that stem cell treatments work by triggering damaged tissues in the body to repair themselves. This is often referred to as “regenerative” therapy.
What is stem cell treatment?
The human body is constantly manufacturing stem cells in the bone marrow. Based on certain conditions and signals in the body, stem cells are directed to where they are needed.
A stem cell is an immature, basic cell that has not yet developed to become, say, a skin cell or a muscle cell or a nerve cell. There are different types of stem cells that the body can use for different purposes.
There is evidenceTrusted Source that stem cell treatments work by triggering damaged tissues in the body to repair themselves. This is often referred to as “regenerative” therapy.
However, research into stem cell treatment for OA of the knee is somewhat limited, and the results of studies are mixed.
The American College of Rheumatology and the Arthritis Foundation (ACR/AF)Trusted Source do not currently recommend stem cell treatment for OA of the knee, for the following reasons:
- There is not yet a standard procedure for preparing the injection.
- There is not enough evidence to prove that it works or is safe.
Currently, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) considers stem cell treatment “investigational”. Until additional studies can demonstrate a clear benefit from stem cell injections, people who opt for this treatment must pay for them on their own and must understand that the treatment may not work.
That said, as researchers learn more about this type of treatment, it could one day become a viable option for the treatment of OA.