A new discovery at the University of York could pave the way for more targeted treatments for osteoarthritis.
Scientists in the Departments of Biology and Physics at York, working with colleagues at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, have identified individual stem cells that can regenerate tissue, cartilage and bone.
This advance could make cell-based treatments for arthritis less of a lottery, the university said last week.
The stem cells are mixed within human bone marrow stromal cells (MSCs) but are similar in appearance, and scientists previously had difficulty in distinguishing between them. By isolating individual MSCs and analysing their different properties, the York researchers were able to identify those stem cells which are capable of repairing damaged cartilage or joint tissue.
The team also isolated a rare subset of stem cells in bone marrow that appeared to have a prominent role in immune function.
Dr. Paul Genever, who led the research at York, said: “While stem cell therapy is an exciting new development for the treatment for osteoarthritis, up to now it has been something of a lottery because we did not know the precise properties of each of the cells.
“This project has helped us to establish which cells are good at regenerating tissue, cartilage and bone respectively. It will help in the search to develop more targeted therapies for arthritis patients.”
Arthritis Research UK funded the study, which has been published in the latest issue of Stem Cell Reports.
Describing the work as “exciting and promising”, Dr. Stephen Simpson, director of research at Arthritis Research UK, said: “Identifying specific stem cells that could help the damaged joint to repair itself takes us a step closer to our aim of developing an injectable, safe, stem cell therapy for people with osteoarthritis.”