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On The Horizon: Better Cell Treatments for Arthritis

Researchers have identified individual stem cells that can regenerate tissue, cartilage and bone – a significant advance that could vastly improve cell-based treatments for arthritis.

Scientists from the Departments of Biology and Physics at the University of York, UK, working with colleagues at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, published the findings in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

In current cell-based treatments for arthritis, the stem cells are mixed within human bone marrow stromal cells (MSCs) but are difficult to evaluate. The York researchers isolated individual MSCs and analyzed their different properties. This allowed researchers to identify which stem cells are capable of repairing damaged cartilage or joint tissue. And that opens the way for improved treatment for arthritis.

The York team also isolated a rare subset of stem cells in bone marrow that appears 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.”

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