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Researchers explore possible alternative to knee replacement

Replacing joints like knees or hips can relieve pain and boost quality of life. But these surgeries demand lengthy rehabs and may not restore full function.

Al Perez, 62, wanted to avoid such a procedure if at all possible. And after conducting some research, he discovered Jason Dragoo, MD. Dragoo is leading a study that is examining whether stem cell therapy can improve cartilage growth and decrease inflammation caused by osteoarthritis in the knee.

"After 15 years of laboratory research, we have optimized our ability to harvest stem cells from the body and can unleash their potential to improve patients with conditions such as osteoarthritis. After all of this time in the laboratory, we are finally ready for human clinical trials to begin," Dragoo said in a recent Stanford Medicine News article.

The cells are extracted from the knee during surgery. They are then processed and returned to the knee, to help with healing. The article explains:

Perez is one of 100 patients who are expected to undergo the procedure. The trial surgeries started at Stanford in the summer of 2016 and are being performed at other national medical centers such as Harvard University, Rush University in Chicago and Ohio State University. After 100 patients have completed the procedure, the researchers will start evaluating whether those who received the stem cell treatments are better off than those who received the standard treatments.

Results are expected in late 2018.

For Perez, the procedure was a success. He can water ski and golf without suffering severe pain. Many other patients are also doing well, Dragoo said.

“We believe this technique will yield more positive results than standard arthroscopy because we are using cell therapy to help the body heal itself,” Dragoo said. “We hope this may save many patients from having to undergo knee replacement.”

Previously: Iron-supplement-slurping stem cells can be transplanted, then tracked to make sure they're making new knees
Photo by Eric Kayne

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