Stem cell jab could replace hip, knee surgeries

Monday, October 18, 2010

LONDON - A simple treatment that could end the need for painful hip and knee replacements is being developed by British scientists.

Within 10 years, damaged joints could be rejuvenated by injections of stem cells.

Those likely to benefit include sufferers of osteo-arthritis, caused by wear and tear of cartilage that helps joints take the strain of bending, lifting, gripping and kneeling and affects more than eight million Britons alone.

While replacement surgery can improve quality of life, it is a complicated and lengthy process and is not always successful, reports the Daily Mail.

Besides, the artificial joints usually last for only 10 to 15 years, meaning some patients have to be operated on over and over again.

The latest research, which centres around the power of embryonic stem cells to turn into other cell types, raises hope of a simple alternative, according to the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Scientists from the Manchester University and Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust have found the ‘recipe’ to coax stem cells into quickly transforming into chondrocytes, the cells that go on to produce cartilage.

Up to 97 percent of the cells generated in experiments were chondrocytes, making the technique much more successful than methods tried elsewhere.

Study author Professor Sue Kimber said: “The beauty is that it takes just two weeks in a dish and it gives a high efficiency of cells which have the characteristics of immature chondrocytes.”

Tests on animals will follow, and although much more research is necessary, a stem cell jab for human joints could be available in just a decade.

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