Stem cell therapy may benefit arthritis patients

Stem cell therapy may benefit arthritis patients

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 52 million people have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis in the U.S. Arthritis can be very painful and often results in lengthy surgical procedures. With the emergence of stem cell therapy, it is possible that this new treatment could replace traditional procedures for arthritis patients.

Key organizations note hope for stem cell therapies 
One of the most significant improvements in stem cell therapies over the years is that physicians no longer have to rely on embryo cells, but can replicate adult cells within the patient's body. These adult stem cells can be transformed into skin, neurons and muscle, according to Healthline. Researchers are now finding that it may be possible to repair certain areas of the body that have been damaged due to arthritis.

As there are multiple types of adults stem cells, scientists are currently working on determining which ones will be most effective for targeted cell replacement therapy for arthritis patients. Multiple sources have recently commented on the potential of these adult stem cells. The National Institutes of Health, for example, has mentioned that these stem cells are useful tools for disease modeling, drug development and, with more research, transplantation medicine. 

"One of the more perplexing questions in biomedical research is – why does the body's protective shield against infections, the immune system, attack its own vital cells, organs and tissues?" asked NIH officials, according to Healthline. "The answer to this question is central to understanding an array of autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren's syndrome. Research on stem cells is now providing new approaches to strategically remove the misguided immune cells and restore normal immune cells to the body."

Fiona Cunningham, director of community advancement for the Arthritis Foundation South Central Region, announced in a statement that she and the foundation are excited about the advancements that scientists have made in adult stem cell research and the new treatments for arthritis patients on the horizon. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation is so confident in the potential of stem cell therapies as an alternative form of treatment for those with arthritis that it recently partnered with stem cell research organization Celltex to work together to establish a bright future for regenerative medicine.

Studies and successes push therapy forward
Many patients with arthritis have already begun looking to stem cell therapies to reduce painful symptoms without invasive treatments. A recent study by the European League Against Rheumatism consisted of 900 patients with six different autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers found that around 30 percent of the patients within each disease group saw improvements, including a reduction of skin collagen and normalization of microvasculature. 

Along with studies on stem cell therapies, patients are also being treated with the innovative procedure. One recent success story involved a patient with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a rare autoimmune condition that impacts only 300,000 children and young adults in the U.S., according to CNN. Sarah Hughes received stem cell treatment as her last hope for fighting the disease. A year after her treatment, she was able to do everything she could not do before the procedure, including eat on her own and walk. She has received multiple cycles of therapy and plans to get more in 2016, as doctors believe her immune system may have learned to self-regulate.

Many arthritis patients who experience difficulty performing basic tasks, such as walking, are considering stem cell therapy as research continues to make further advancements and more success stories surface.