Team Uses Stem Cells To Repair Cartilage Breakdown in Knees

September 2, 2010

Featured on ABC Affiliate KGUN 9 is a video clip and article on the use of stem cells to treat arthritis.

Featured on ABC Affiliate KGUN 9 is a video clip and article on the use of stem cells to treat arthritis.

The clip highlights the story of scientist Dr. John Szivek, a UA Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, and his team’s efforts to use the procedure on patients.

Cartilage breakdown is common in patients with osteoarthritis. The article and video explain that “wear-and-tear on the cartilage covering the bone” of joints “can cause serious knee pain.” Current solutions involve replacing “the entire joint with metal and plastic parts,” but this can sometimes result in nerve damage and loss, and the plastic used can sometimes break down and limit the patient’s mobility.

Szivek’s team studied a method of getting cartilage cells to grow into tissue by using stem cells “from a patient’s own fat."

It quotes him as saying “Those cells are very easy to collect from fat tissue…We don't need very much of the fat tissue. A golf ball size piece of fat from the patient has tens of millions of cells in it.”

The team extracted out the stem cells, and placed them on a special scaffold that uses 3D images from a CT Scan to “create an exact match of the patient’s bone structure.”

"If we place them near a cartilage surface, the cells that are nearby send them signals and those signals turn the stem cells into cartilage cells," Dr. Szivek said.

The tiny scaffold is then placed in “the damaged part of the knee and within a couple of months, tissue is formed and the cartilage is as good as new.” Recovery takes about the same time as a total joint replacement, but the incision is much smaller.