In this report world-renowned stem cell researcher Dr. Joel Singer describes the breakthroughs in stem cell research for people suffering through arthritis:
Due to our rapidly aging population, there are more people suffering with chronic pain from arthritis than ever before. New advancements in stem cell research are for the first time offering real hope that we can find a cure for this debilitating disease.
Joint pain from arthritis can arise for a number of reasons. Athletes that are involved with running and contact sports may seem like the most vulnerable members of society to these types of illness, but in many cases, it’s simply the result of natural wear and tear over time. Many people suffer from arthritis due to genetic reasons as well.
By the time we reach our 80’s, 50 percent of us have some form of arthritis. The goal with stem cell therapy is to provide more than just temporary relief of pain symptoms. These techniques have the potential to actually regenerate the body and cure arthritis completely.
The UK and Europe
At the turn of the 21st century, stem cell treatments for arthritis seemed a long way off, but today it’s a field that’s gaining real traction. There are daily breakthroughs here in the US and overseas as well. Optimistic projections suggest that stem cell treatments may eliminate arthritis altogether within the next 5 years.
By 2015 Arthritis Research UK was already investing £5 million into stem cell research and they’ve seen promising results. Clinical trials are ongoing, but these methods are already being used to help athletes recover from knee injuries faster. Similar studies are being conducted in France, Belgium, and The Netherlands.
Asia and Australia
Great strides are being made in other areas of the world as well. Some of the most advanced research into stem cell therapy has been conducted in Asia and Australia has had a great deal of success as well. Leading Australian pharmaceutical companies are conducting research to determine just how effective regenerative stem cell therapy really is for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Patients who’ve had the treatment were still relatively pain free after two years.
Standard steroid injections used today to treat arthritis only last about 6 months. In as many as 40 percent of all cases, they don’t work at all. The success rate of stem cell injections seems to be much higher so far, which is encouraging for both doctors and patients.
What’s Happening in the US?
As promising as all of these ongoing trials and studies around the world are, some of the biggest steps are happening right here in the US. US universities, such as Stanford are conducting research that’s cutting edge.
At the Stanford Medical Center, successful human trials on patients with arthritic knees are taking place using a streamlined technique. Some of the patient’s own fat deposits are extracted in the operating room, the stem cells are separated from the extracted fat deposits, and then the stem cells are reinjected back into the patient in one operation. These day surgeries can virtually eliminate arthritic pain, allowing the patient to return to a normal life.
Similar trials have taken place at medical facilities in other states as well. At OrthoArkansas, a clinic that treats people suffering from chronic pain, stem cell treatments are already taking place. The procedure is like the one being used at Stanford and patients receive the same benefits. These stem cell operations aren’t just treating chronic pain – they’re actually helping the body to regenerate itself.
Why Stem Cells Are Better Than Steroids
The regenerative nature of stem cells is what makes it such a promising treatment for arthritis sufferers. A common treatment for severe arthritis is the use of steroid injections. These techniques usually have mixed results and even when they are effective, they don’t last for more than six months. That means the patient has to make frequent visits to the physician if they want relief from debilitating pain.
Because stem cell procedures can regenerate the body’s own tissue and cartilage, return visits could become a thing of the past. Some early patients that have received stem cell injections have gone for more than two years with no ill effects. For the first time in history, there seems to be real cause for optimism that we’re nearing a cure for chronic pain from arthritis.
Leading the Way
Some of the greatest progress towards a cure for chronic pain is taking place in New York City. The Park Avenue Stem Cell Therapy Center opened its doors in 2015 and it’s providing patients stem cell treatments to alleviate chronic pain today.
The clinic uses a new technique called stromal vascular fraction (SVF), which extracts stem cells from the patient’s own fat deposits or adipose. The stem cells are then injected into the patient with the objective of regenerating the damaged areas around joints that are usually the source of their chronic pain.
The technique is like those being used elsewhere, but what makes this clinic unique is that it’s part of a network of physicians that are sharing ideas with the goal of improving techniques. If we’re actually going to eliminate chronic pain, it’s going to take this type of collaborative effort. The prospect of a future without arthritis has never seemed more real.