Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Therapy

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disease characterized by degeneration of the joint cartilage and the surrounding bones, causing systemic pain and stiffness in the patient that leads to high costs of treatment and long period of absence from work, having a huge financial impact on the health system of each country.

Specialty hospital Saint Catherine was the first institution in the South-East Europe that made the application of mesenchymal stem cells extracted from fatty tissue (AdMSCs) in to the joints of patients with damaged cartilage.

Researchers and physicians from Specialty Hospital Saint Catherine and Genos laboratory recently published their results of a two-year follow-up study in the “Genes” journal, reporting extraordinary results of usage of AdMSCs on joints affected by OA, casting a brand new light on treatment options of this condition. Our article demonstrated new mechanisms of AdMSCs action on damaged cartilage tissue, such as the increase of the synthesis of key molecules (glycosaminoglycans) responsible for normal functioning of joint cartilage. Results indicate the effect of AdMSCs on chondrocytes via several key mechanisms, including the release of trophic factors that inhibit cell death (apoptosis) and formation of scar tissue, and stimulate formation of new blood vessels and other tissue through their mitogenic (proliferative) effect, ultimately leading to repair of damaged tissue or even complete regenerative effect. Moreover, results also showed that most OA patients had significant reduction of pain while resting and in movement, combined with the increase of their range of motion in affected joints. At the same time, by analyzing very sensitive markers of inflammation (IgG glycans), it has been observed that the inflammatory process of the joints is stabilized, which is a basis for the cartilage tissue and cells to function normally.

The results were presented at a press conference by the project leaders Professor Dragan Primorac, MD,Ph.D., Assistant Professor Damir Hudetz, MD, Ph.D., and Professor Gordan Lauc, Ph.D. Other members of the research group were Assistant Professor Igor Borić, MD, Ph.D. , dr. Eduard Rod, dr. Željko Jeleč, dr. Trpimir Vrdoljak, Assistant Professor Andrea Skelin, dr. Irena Trbojević-Akmačić, dr. Mihovil Plečko and Professor Ozren Polašek. Also, the press conference was attended by three patients who went through the process of AdMSC application during the treatment of OA of the joints of the knee and hip. All of them emphasized a significant reduction in pain and a major improvement in mobility after the treatment.

The importance of the results of Croatian scientists is best explained by the fact that OA is one of the most common health problems in the world, from which today more than 400 million people suffer, and predictions are that by 2030 more than 700 million people will suffer from this disease. According to available data in Croatia, OA today accounts for about 25% -30% of the population, while for example the number of OA patients in the United States is over 50 million.

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