Is There Hope for Osteoarthritis Sufferers? Maybe Stem Cells Are the Answer

Adults who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee may find that stem cells are a solution to the debilitating disease. A large-scale clinical trial using stem cells is expected to be underway across Europe by the end of 2015.

The European Commission’s Community Research and Development Information Service announced that a grant of EUR 6 million has been awarded to “ADIPOA-2” by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research funding program. The project will include 18 partners from Ireland, France, the UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at the National University of Ireland Galway is coordinating the project.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic, progressive condition caused by inflammation of the soft tissue and bony structures of the joint, which worsens over time and leads to progressive thinning of articular cartilage.  It causes debilitating chronic pain, joint stiffness and loss of function.

The market is getting larger thanks in part to an increase in the aging population. Treatment is given depending on the affected joint, including the hand, wrist, neck, back, knee, and hip, and involves medication and exercise. There are no medicines or therapies to halt the progression of the disease, which often requires people to have total joint replacement surgery.

In the first phase of the program, 18 patients were injected with stem cells cultured from the patient’s own fatty tissue. The results were good enough to trigger the larger, multi-center phase 2 study. Ten hospitals in Europe will study the treatment in 150 patients to determine safety and efficacy in treating advanced osteoarthritis of the knee.

Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at the National University of Ireland Galway, is Coordinator of the project. He says “The results from ADIPOA’s first-in-man-trials were very encouraging and paved the way for another study to further test the safety and effectiveness on a wider scale. ADIPOA-2 is bringing together Europe’s leading scientific, clinical and technical expertise on this project.”

Professor Christian Jorgensen, Head of The Clinical Unit for Osteoarticular Diseases University Hospital Montpellier in France, said “Ambitious as it sounds, we are aiming to deliver an effective treatment for the debilitating and incurable condition of osteoarthritis within as little as five years. We have arrived at this point because of a great deal of work by many scientists, clinicians and stem cell experts who have made enormous contributions in understanding the therapeutic potential of stem cells.”

More information on ADIPOA-2 can be found here.

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