With many types of arthritis affecting the knees, treatments to slow or stop the progression of the disease can reduce pain and limitations while minimizing the need for surgery later. Stem cell therapy is a newer option that can be invaluable in reducing the disabling effects frequently caused by arthritis.
Different types of arthritis can cause inflammation via different mechanisms. Osteoarthritis (OA) generally causes inflammation because the wearing away of cartilage causes the bones to rub together. When inflammatory arthritis affects the knee, it causes inflammation because the immune system directly attacks parts of the knee, such as the synovial membrane or the soft tissues that support the knee. Stem cells are believed to help both causes of inflammation. One of the ways stem cells help is by releasing proteins that inhibit inflammation. When inflammation is reduced, there is less ongoing damage to the knees.
One of the goals of injecting undifferentiated cells into the knee is they will repair damage. Several parts of the knee can be damaged through different forms of arthritis. Stem cells may be capable of becoming new cartilage, which can reduce the effects of OA on the knee by replacing the cushioning that prevents bones from rubbing together. Other parts of the knee that either cannot heal or have a low capacity for healing include the meniscus, tendons, and ligaments. Stem cells may also be useful in repairing these areas of the knee that would ordinarily require surgery to replace.
Knee surgery is common with severe arthritis, with a partial or total joint replacement being the most effective. Since there are challenges related to knee replacements, most surgeons would rather wait as long as possible before performing the procedure. A major concern for surgeons is doing a knee replacement on younger patients who would likely need future surgeries as the artificial knee wears out. Stem cell therapy can make it possible to either prevent or delay this operation if therapy is effective at reducing pain and increasing physical functioning. Studies involving stem cell therapy find that knees injected with stem cells experience less deterioration over the coming years.
When arthritis affects your knees, there may be more you can do than simply deal with the pain and regression. At minimum, regular treatments with stem cells can reduce inflammation that contributes to pain, but stem cell therapy can possibly reverse some of the damage and delay the need for surgical procedures.