Stem Cell Treatment for Knee Osteoarthritis Pain

Among the most promising treatments for knee pain and loss of function from osteoarthritis is the injection of stem cells into the knee. A new meta-analysis purports to have identified the best sources of stem cells for this purpose so far.

The best stem cells for knee pain and loss of knee function are those derived from donors’ umbilical cord tissue or a patient’s own adipose fat cells.

The meta-analysis collates the results of stem cell of knee osteoarthritis trials involving 875 patients across 16 studies. There were 336 men in the studies. Participants ranged in age from 51 to 69 years. Stem cells were received by 441 people, and 436 people served as controls.

Overall, people being treated with any of the stem cells experienced a significant decrease in knee pain starting at three months of treatment, underscoring the potential of the therapy for knee osteoarthritis.

The study is published in the Journal of Orthopoedic Research.

The knee is the joint that is most commonly affected by osteoarthritis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), knee osteoarthritis currently affects about 365 million people worldwide. 

Knee osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in one’s knee breaks down, causing the joint’s bones to rub directly together, creating friction. The reduction in physical activity that may occur as a result of pain can lead to other health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Gendai Echezona, of Premier Pain Care and Wellness, not involved in the current research, noted that regenerative medicine for the knee is not something new. She noted that regenerative therapy includes stem cell therapy as well as injections of platelet-rich plasma.

Mesenchymal cells are stem cells that can develop into many types of connective tissue. They have large nuclei and are spindle-shaped.

Stem-cell treatment of knee osteoarthritis is not currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United State, noted Dr. Echezona.

“Stem cell implantation may potentially repair affected tissue, develop new cartilage, decrease inflammation, and slow down further degeneration,” explained Dr. Echezona. “This leads to decreased pain and improved functionality, which can contribute to joint strengthening”.

The authors of the meta-analysis concluded by prioritizing stem cells by effectiveness: first, mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical tissues, second, stem cells extracted from patient’s own adipose fat, and finally, mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow.


Rong-hui Xie, Shi-guo Gong, Jiao Song, Ping-ping Wu, Wen-Long Hu. Effect of mesenchymal stromal cells transplantation on the outcomes of patients with knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Orthopedic Research 2023, 

Journal of Orthopedic Research. (2023, November 28). Stem cell transplants can be a safe treatment for knee osteoarthritis pain. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved November 29, 2023 from 

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