While there are pain relievers and medications capable of treating the symptoms of osteoarthritis, prior to stem cells, nothing has been available to reverse or cure the disease. The exact cause is unknown, but it is related to aging, injury, genetics, developmental conditions, and weight, as the water content in the cartilage decreases over time. In severe cases of the knee or hip, joint replacement is the only way to alleviate the pain and increase mobility. The procedure is very drastic, and many people with advanced disease will have to go through it multiple times. Others will be dissatisfied with the result of surgery.
A group of researchers led by Rock Taun of the University of Pittsburgh have developed a way to manufacture replacement cartilage using a 3D printer. He presented his work at the Experimental Biology 2014 conference in San Diego.
In hopes of developing a new form of treatment, Taun sought to manufacture replacement cartilage derived from the patient’s own stem cells that could be added into the joint. The technique uses a 3D printer which intertwines stem cells, biological growth factors, and a scaffold for to give the cartilage shape. While this isn’t the first time this technique has been attempted, it has the distinct advantage of using visible light as opposed to UV light, which can cause damage to the cells and DNA. Taun hopes to refine this technique so that the materials can be printed directly into a patient’s joint by a doctor using a catheter-like printer.
Guest editorial comment: “Moving away from UV light for cross-linking definitely is a step in the right direction. The one problem with the bio-printing approach is it is extremely slow, and at $12,000 an hour for a surgical suite, those cells better be pouring out of the end of that catheter like water out of a fire hose.
Oh, and the cost to bring this to market probably would approach $50 million.”
All This Adipose Talk
Meanwhile, Regenexx has been testing an ultrasonic/vibration assisted liposuction unit that’s FDA cleared. The manufacturer claimed that it results in Stromal Vascular Fractions and liberated Mesenchymal Stem Cells, but we wanted to double check. The Regenexx laboratory results did not support the manufacturer’s claims. Our best guess is that the mechanical trauma of harvesting may be hurting the cell viability. However, we’re open to better techniques for cell handling and separation that are regulatory compliant and that may produce better yields. To that end, we’re going to test several more patients with this system and refine our harvest techniques and also try to refine the minimal processing. I’ll let you know if we can get this system to reliably provide better than marrow MSC counts.
If the cells are digested to get SVF with an enzyme, that’s a drug. We are trying to see if we can get to a regulatory compliant version; not to replace the Bone Marrow Aspirate Concentrate procedure, but to meet the needs of the arthritic joint and the surrounding structures.
At The Regenerative Pain Center, we are always available to meet your musculoskeletal and arthritic needs.