Can Stem Cell Therapies Help In Treating Joint Problems?

stem cell therapies

Recent research has led to innovations that can help improve the outcome of treatments of several diseases. Stem cell therapies are among the most revered advanced treatments for treating illnesses that can affect nearly all tissues and organs of the body including your bones, joints, heart, brain, and even blood. [1]

Stem cell therapies are being used for the management of several bone disorders including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These therapies form a growing new specialty commonly referred to as regenerative medicine. It is aimed at supporting the body’s ability to repair or replace dead or damaged parts using a person’s own cells. [2]

Researchers are assessing the effectiveness and safety of stem cell therapies so that these treatments can be used for patients with bone diseases. Here is a detailed discussion about whether stem cell therapies can be beneficial in the management of bone and joint diseases. 

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the cells produced in the bone marrow. The cells differentiate to form specific cells of different organs and tissues. Stem cells are basically undifferentiated cells that have the ability to proliferate and mature into adult cells of any organ. [3]

That’s not all! 

Stem cells also release signaling molecules, which can encourage wound healing and growth. This means these cells can mature into any cell type and can support the functions of other healthy cells to restore normal functions and structure to the affected area or system. 

It is this ability of stem cells to mature or convert into any specific form of cell that has led to their use in the therapies of different ailments. Stem cells are being viewed as wonder therapies for any disorder that requires the dead and worn-out tissues to be replaced. [4]

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What are the different sources of stem cells?

Stem cells are produced in the bone marrow. Stem cells are obtained through a procedure called bone marrow aspiration or bone marrow biopsy. 

The harvested cells are processed then stored for infusion back into the patient’s body. Stem cells introduced back into the patient’s bloodstream can reach the bone marrow where they can multiply and form cells of any type including the cells of the organs that are damaged. [5]

These new and healthy cells can replace the dead or damaged cells of the affected tissues and thus, support the patient’s recovery. [6]

Stem cells can be obtained from different sources such as:

  • Perinatal stem cells that can be derived from fetal tissues like the amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord
  • Embryonic stem cells that are derived from the embryo, which, however, may lead to ethically contentious issues
  • Adult stem cells found in the bone marrow or in fatty deposits 
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells formed by genetically reprogramming the mature cells to form healthy stem cells that resemble embryonic stem cells closely.

How are stem cells used to treat bone and joint disorders?

Stem cells infused back into the patient’s body may help to regrow cartilage. This can help to strengthen the ligaments, muscles, and tendons around the bones and improve joint support and stability. 

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), obtained from umbilical cord blood, can also be used for stem cell therapy to stimulate the repair of the joint tissues damaged due to inflammation or aging. 

MSCs can travel to the site of injury or inflammation and release regenerative factors such as VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), PDGF (platelet-derived growth factor), and FGF (fibroblast growth factor). [7]

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These growth factors can promote the formation of new cartilage, and other tissues, to enhance natural healing.

In addition, MSCs may also produce other subtle effects. For example, these cells may help to reduce the severity of inflammation in the joints and inhibit a hyperactive response of the immune system. 

The activities of MSCs could be beneficial in the management of osteoarthritis, cervical and lumbar spondylosis as well as other inflammatory and degenerative conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and spondylitis. 

Stem cell therapy can also help to control the joint damage caused due to autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, by protecting the healthy tissues against the abnormal response of the immune cells. 

Other benefits of stem cells therapies in the management of joint diseases

Anti-inflammatory effects of stem cells

Stem cells can inhibit the action of proinflammatory molecules and improve the natural anti-inflammatory processes. This helps slow down the inflammatory cascade that can occur in the joints.

MSCs exposed to inflammatory substances like lipopolysaccharide, nitric oxide, and TNF-α, which are released from damaged tissues, can stimulate a negative feedback loop. This means when these proinflammatory substances are exposed to MSCs signals are sent to the immune cells to reduce the production of inflammatory substances, thereby inhibiting further damage to the joints. 

Stem cell therapies and PRP

It is possible to combine stem cell therapies with the use of PRP or platelet-rich plasma derived from the patient’s blood. Platelets from PRP can secrete growth factors and proteins that can stimulate tissue regeneration, regulate cell division, and promote healing. 

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PRP therapy can enhance the benefits of stem cell therapies. [8]

Stem cell therapies for rheumatoid arthritis

Synovial MSC therapy that involves injecting MSCs directly into the damaged tissues surrounding the joints can help to heal the affected tissue in a shorter duration. [9]

Research studies have shown that MSCs have the ability to suppress the immune system and control the inflammatory response. Synovial MSC thearpy is considered a promising treatment for patients suffering from autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. [10]


Whether it is a degenerative inflammatory condition like osteoarthritis, or an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis, stem cell therapies have the potential to restore functions of the affected joints. 

These treatments may help to improve joint mobility, reduce pain and stiffness, and treat other symptoms caused due to bone diseases. The effectiveness of these therapies varies among patients depending on their age and the extent of the damage. Contact your physician to find out more about the benefits of stem cell therapies and whether you are an ideal candidate for the procedure. 



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