Pioneering the use of stem cells to fight osteoarthritis pain

We’re leading the way in developing a better therapy for osteoarthritis by rejuvenating old stem cells and using them to repair cartilage damage.

Researchers from our Department of Biology are carrying out a three-year study to investigate how rejuvenated cells from older people with osteoarthritis can be used to repair worn or damaged cartilage - reducing chronic pain.

There is currently no treatment to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis, and people with severe disease often need total joint replacement surgery.

Rejuvenated stem cells

A patient’s own bone marrow stem cells are a valuable source of potential treatment as they can generate joint tissue that won’t be rejected when re-implanted. However, as people grow older the number of stem cells decreases and those that remain are less able to grow and repair tissue.

Dr Paul Genever, lead researcher, who heads up the Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre in the Department of Biology, said: “A way to ‘reset’ stem cells to an earlier time point, termed rejuvenation, has recently been discovered, allowing more effective tissue repair.

“This project, funded by Arthritis Research UK, will firstly compare rejuvenated and non-rejuvenated stem cells to see if the process improves cartilage repair, and secondly, investigate whether it is possible to develop new drugs which are able to rejuvenate stem cells.”

Osteoarthritis impact

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease worldwide. In the UK, around a third of people aged 45 years and over, totalling 8.75 million people, have sought treatment from their GP for the condition. It causes pain and stiffness in the joints due to cartilage at the ends of bones wearing away.

Professor Alan Silman, medical director at charity Arthritis Research UK, said: “Osteoarthritis has a significant impact on people’s lives as it causes chronic pain and disability, and there are currently few effective treatments that prevent its progression.

“This study offers hope of improved therapies in osteoarthritis through the replication and rejuvenation of stem cells. This is pioneering research, which has the potential to help reduce pain and disability and improve the quality of life of those living with osteoarthritis.”

Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions. Receiving no government funding, it is the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis.

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This study offers hope of improved therapies in osteoarthritis through the replication and rejuvenation of stem cells.”

Professor Alan Silman
Arthritis Research UK
Featured researcher

Dr Paul Genever

Reader in the Department of Biology

Heads the Biomedical Tissue Research Group whose focuses on identifying cellular and molecular pathways that regulate differentiated tissue function, primarily in skeletal and haematopoietic systems (bone, cartilage, marrow, blood).

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