- / 2011
Researchers work on new treatment for early osteoarthritis
Within five years, researchers aim to treat early osteoarthritis by introducing adult stem cells and other types of cell into damaged joints, repairing damage through less invasive operations such as key-hole surgery.
Arthritis Research UK, The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (RJAH) in Oswestry and Keele University are launching a major experimental tissue engineering centre which aims to regenerate bone and cartilage by using patients’ own stem cells to repair the joint damage caused by osteoarthritis.
The exploratory research has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of osteoarthritis, which causes pain and disability to eight million people in the UK. Treatments for early osteoarthritis are usually limited to non-surgical options such as pain killers and physiotherapy. Patients currently undergo joint replacement operations but only when the disease has deteriorated to a severe end stage.
The RJAH, in partnership with Keele University, is one of four institutions that make up the new Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre, led by Newcastle University, to be launched on Thursday, October 6.
Within five years, researchers aim to treat early osteoarthritis by introducing adult stem cells and other types of cell into damaged joints, repairing damage through less invasive operations such as key-hole surgery. If this proves successful, in future they hope to perform this procedure as a ‘one stop’ day case procedure, which may delay the need for joint replacement surgery. Other long term aims include finding a way to ‘switch on’ stem cells already present in patients’ joints. Researchers also hope to develop an ‘off the peg’ bank of universal donor cells for use with any patient, making treatment cheaper and more widely available.
Professor Sally Roberts, who is director of spinal research at the RJAH and will be leading the research with orthopaedic surgeons, said: “Every patient has their own ‘repair kit.’ Whereas joint replacement surgery uses metal and plastic to replace the severely damaged joint, we’re trying to treat at an earlier stage and to assist the human body to repair itself.
“Keyhole and minimally invasive operations for early arthritis have been in development for some years and we propose to improve upon these techniques and work towards more widely available treatments. This requires research at all levels of the process, from laboratory to bedside. We hope that elements of this approach will reach the patient in the operating theatre within the first five years.”
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK said: “This early experimental work is the first step on a journey that could significantly reduce the need for joint replacement operations.”
“It’s hugely exciting. At the moment joint replacement surgery is the most effective treatment we have but people with osteoarthritis cope with years of increasing pain and disability until they reach the point where surgery becomes a viable option.”
Scientists and surgeons, as well as colleagues including Professor el Haj at Keele University, will focus on:
• Introducing the modified process of cell therapy to the orthopaedic clinic. Special facilities for culture-expansion of autologous chondrocytes and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells have been established for cartilage and bone repair over a decade ago. The team have been instrumental in monitoring progress in the clinic, developing outcome measures for objective assessment of the procedures used and studying the biology of repair. Professor El Haj is examining ways of controlling and scaling-up production and targeting of cells for tissue-engineered cell therapy.
• With existing Arthritis Research UK funding, the team is aiming to trial the use of stem cells from bone marrow versus cartilage cells to treat osteoarthritis of the knee in a small clinical trial of approximately 100 people.
• Trying to identify risk factors or biomarkers to predict the small proportion of patients who do not respond well to cell therapy.
Professor Silman continued: “Osteoarthritis of the hip and knee will be an increasing problem in our society as people age and want to remain active. Although joint replacement can be spectacularly successful, finding an injectable cell-based answer that could be used earlier would be a major breakthrough, reducing pain and disability and minimising health service costs. We believe our new centre will lead the way in this exciting field of research.”
The £6 million Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre is based at four sites: Newcastle University, the University of Aberdeen, Keele University/the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Oswestry and the University of York. Funded by a core grant of £2.5 million over five years from Arthritis Research UK with a further £3.4 million pledged by the four participating universities, the centre will bring together leading clinicians, engineers and biologists from research and clinical groups.
The RJAH and Keele University are making an investment of £400,000 in the new centre.
For more information go to: www.arthritisresearchuk.org/tissueengineering.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK is available for telephone interview on 4th, 5th 6th and 7th October 2011. Images of stem cells and case study photography are available on request.
For more information about Arthritis Research UK please contact Jane Tadman, Phillipa Jose or Casey Purkiss at Arthritis Research UK – telephone (0) 300 790 0400 or email the below:
RJAH Press Office
Tel: 0870 122 0070
Fax: 0871 661 1148
Mobile: 07814 073390
The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
About Arthritis Research UK:
Arthritis Research UK is providing £2.5 million to fund the Arthritis Research UK Tissue Centre. Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions. It is the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. For more information please visit: www.arthritisresearchuk.org