Damaged Cartilage? Skip Surgery, Opt for Stem Cells Instead

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What is Articular Cartilage and Why Doesn’t It Heal Well?

Articular cartilage consists of only one cell type called chondrocytes. These cells produce and release collagen and proteoglycans which make up the extracellular matrix around them. This matrix forms the bulk of cartilage tissue and gives it a flexible, elastic quality.

The collagen fibers provide tensile strength and structure. The most common is type II collagen with some types IX and XI. Proteoglycans are proteins with attached carbohydrates called glycosaminoglycans. The major proteoglycan is aggrecan which binds with hyaluronan. This forms large aggregates which attract and retain water molecules. The resulting swelling pressure allows cartilage to spring back after being compressed.

But with age, cartilage breaks down from years of motion and loading. The chondrocytes lose their ability to balance the loss and replacement of extracellular matrix components. And since cartilage lacks blood vessels, the body has no way to deliver repair cells to areas of damage.

Osteoarthritis Develops as Cartilage Deteriorates

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most prevalent type of arthritis. Over 6 million people in the UK suffer from painful OA in at least one knee. About 650,000 have it in a hip joint. OA frequently develops after injuries that damage ligaments or meniscus cartilage. It can also result from occupations requiring repetitive squatting or heavy lifting. And obesity places additional force on weight-bearing joints.

Both mechanical wear-and-tear and cellular changes contribute to OA. As chondrocytes become stressed, they release inflammatory chemicals which activate enzymes degrading the matrix. This erosion thins cartilage, causing surface damage. Eventually cracks reach the underlying bone allowing inflammation to set in. As more cartilage disappears, the rubbing of bone-on-bone leads to pain and loss of smooth joint function.

Conventional Therapy Just Treats Symptoms

Current treatments like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, injections, and eventual arthroplasty or joint replacement aim to decrease inflammation and pain but don’t restore worn cartilage. A technique called microfracture surgery pokes holes into the bone to allow bone marrow stem cells to migrate which may form a fibrocartilage-like layer over defects. But this scar tissue lacks the strength and durability of original hyaline cartilage.

Stem Cell Therapy Holds Promise for True Cartilage Repair

Recently, stem cells have displayed promise for engineering replacement tissues. Stem cells are primitive progenitor cells that can multiply while keeping the potential to differentiate into specialized cell types. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are adult stem cells capable of becoming bone, cartilage, fat, or other connective tissues.

Why Umbilical Cord Tissue is an Ideal Stem Cell Source

Several features make the umbilical cord an especially abundant and potent MSC source. These cells exhibit a more primitive state with superior expansion and multilineage differentiation capacities over MSCs from adult tissues. Umbilical cord MSCs also seem to provoke less immune reactivity when transplanted. Ongoing studies appear promising that MSCs isolated from donated umbilical cord tissue could successfully treat human cartilage defects without host rejection.

How Stem Cells Might Regenerate Damaged Cartilage

In the developing embryo, mesenchymal stem cells condense and transform into cartilage cells through a process directed by SOX9, an essential protein regulating genes needed for chondrocyte formation. Extracellular signaling factors prompt production of key ingredients making up the cartilage matrix like collagen type II, aggrecan, and other proteins.

The same chondrogenic sequence can be reproduced in cultured MSCs by placing them in high density with growth promoters favoring cartilage cell fate. Over the course of days to weeks, the cells shift from elongated to rounded shapes. They turn on SOX9 (a protein that acts like a switch), which then switches on genes that tell the cells to build the components of cartilage (the “extracellular matrix”). Soon, collagen type II (the main protein in cartilage), aggrecan (a large molecule that gives cartilage its spongy texture), and other important building blocks will appear.

When ready, the mature, matrix-rich cells can be injected into cartilage defects and then covered with a collagen patch, securing them in place. The transplanted cells attach and revert to producing hyaline-like cartilage integrated with host tissue. In proof-of-concept animal studies, implanted MSCs alone or with biomaterials successfully fill cartilage wounds. As human clinical trials demonstrate feasibility and define protocols, this approach is poised to become a mainstream, low-risk way to durably restore cartilage integrity.

Advantages of Stem Cells Over Current Surgical Treatments

  • True regeneration rather than temporary symptom relief
  • Avoid pain, long rehabs, and activity limitations of surgery
  • Lower risk and less invasive outpatient procedure
  • Treat large lesions not fixable with past techniques
  • Durable repair that stands the test of time
  • Applicable earlier to halt arthritis progression
  • Single intervention rather than multiple staged operations
  • Universal donor cells minimize rejection issues

The Stem Cell Medical Center Provides Stem Cell Therapy

The Stem Cell Medical Center in Antigua specializes in stem cell treatments to repair cartilage, tendons, ligaments and prevent osteoarthritis progression.

Key Takeaways

  • Cartilage lacks innate healing capacity, making joints prone to osteoarthritis
  • Current surgical treatments don’t regenerate lost cartilage cushioning
  • Stem cells can form new cartilage when injected under defective patches
  • Umbilical cord tissue provides a readily available, non-controversial source
  • This approach brings true cartilage rebuilding with lower risk than surgery
  • Ongoing advances make stem cells the first-line fix for damaged cartilage

Their onsite certified laboratory and cell bank allow consistent production of clinical-grade umbilical MSCs under strict quality control. An international team of board-certified specialists tailors multi-disciplinary care plans for each patient. Visit their website for treatment details or schedule a consultation about regenerating your cartilage with stem cells today. Don’t live with stiff, aching joints. Choose an alternative to repeated failed surgeries. Help your body heal itself naturally with regenerative medicine. Contact the Stem Cell Medical Center today to learn how our integrative treatment programs using umbilical-derived mesenchymal stem cells can get you back to living an active, pain-free lifestyle.