Osteoarthritis is a disease in which the cartilage of the joints degenerates. Currently, it is treated symptomatically (with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving drugs) or by replacing the joint with an artificial one made of metal or plastic. However, the lifespan of such joints is limited.
Scientists from the University of Basel and the University Hospital of Basel have tested a new treatment for osteoarthritis. In the laboratory, they grew cartilage from cells obtained from the patients’ nasal septum. Then the obtained tissues were implanted into the knee joints of two patients with osteoarthritis – aged 34 and 36 years.
The study authors noted that, unlike many other joint defects, osteoarthritis is associated with persistent inflammation. To determine how this factor will act on the transplanted cartilage, they conducted experiments on mice before implanting cartilage in humans. Cartilage strength has been tested in a study in sheep. Animal experiments have shown that the transplanted cartilage is able to resist inflammation.
Magnetic resonance imaging showed that one of the patients had an enlarged joint space after the operation, this is a sign of joint restoration. The second patient was not tested due to the limitations of the pandemic.
Eight months after the procedure, both patients reported significant pain relief, improved joint function and quality of life.
During the operation, the scientists corrected the abnormalities of the articular surfaces that were the cause of osteoarthritis. Since the cause of the disease has been eliminated, they hope that young people will be able to do without joint replacement for a while.
“Larger clinical trials are now needed to test the effectiveness of the method, as two successful cases only provide evidence at the case level,” said Ivan Martin of the University of Basel, co-author of the study.