Pioneering therapy explored for arthritis

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scientists in Yorkshire are launching pioneering research to develop better therapies to target a common condition by harnessing the body’s own cells.

A team at York University has been awarded £190,000 by the charity Arthritis Research UK for a three-year study to investigate how rejuvenated stem cells in older people with osteoarthritis could be used to repair worn or damaged cartilage.

There is no treatment to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis and people with severe disease often need joint replacements.

Experts believe a patient’s own bone marrow stem cells could prove a potential therapy as they can generate joint tissue that will not be rejected. But as people grow older the number of cells falls and those remaining are less able to grow and repair tissue.

Lead researcher Paul Genever, who heads the Arthritis Research UK tissue engineering centre in the university’s biology department said: “A way to ‘reset’ stem cells to an earlier time point, termed rejuvenation, has recently been discovered, allowing more effective tissue repair.

“This project will firstly compare rejuvenated and non-rejuvenated stem cells to see if the process improves cartilage repair and secondly investigate whether it is possible to develop new drugs which are able to rejuvenate stem cells.”

Nearly nine million people - a third of those aged 45 and over - have sought treatment for the condition in the UK.

Prof Alan Silman, medical director at the charity, said: “This is pioneering research which has the potential to help reduce pain and disability and improving quality of life of those living with osteoarthritis.”