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Joint Replacement and Stem Cells

A pioneering study in animals, published in The Lancet, has shown that failing joints can be replaced with a joint grown naturally using the host’s own stem cells.

The work paves the way for a future of naturally grown joints that would last longer than currently used artificial joints. The research, by Professor Jeremy J Mao, and his team at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, USA, and colleagues from University of Missouri and Clemson University, involved removing the forelimb thigh joint of 10 rabbits. Mao implanted three dimensional biomaterial scaffolds infused with growth factor. The rabbits’ own stem cells were ‘homed’ by the growth factor to go to the location of the missing joint, as well as regenerated cartilage and bone in two separate layers.Just four weeks later, the rabbits were able to resume normal movements, similar to rabbits with normal functional joints. These rabbits had grown their own joint using their own stem cells, instead of stem cells harvested apart or outside of the host, according to The Lancet.

Professor Mao says, in a July 28, 2010 Lancet press release: “In patients who need the knee, shoulder, hip or finger joints regenerated, the rabbit model provides a proof of principle. Several scientific and regulatory issues must be dealt with prior to patient applications.”

He adds that the load bearing recovery in human patients will be more challenging than in animal models, due to humans being two-legged.

For more information, go to: The Lancet study.

For more about how physical therapy can help patients avoid the need for total joint replacement, as well as get the best outcomes possible from joint replacement surgery, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

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