Mesenchymal stem cells in osteoarthritis therapy: a review



Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint disease that generally occurs worldwide with pain and disability. The progression is slow, and it is mostly diagnosed midlife and often disturbs the knees, hips, feet, hands, and spine. Sex, age, obesity, occupation, and hereditary factors are risk factors that increase the opportunity for OA. Physical examinations involving X-rays and MRI, joint fluid analysis and blood tests are common tools for the diagnosis of OA. Interventions including exercise, manual therapy, lifestyle modification, and medication can help relieve pain and maintain mobility in the affected joints, yet none of the therapies enables the promotion of regeneration of degenerated tissues. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a promising source for the treatment of OA due to their multipotency for differentiation into chondrocytes and their ability to modulate the immune system. Herein, we review the pathogenesis and treatment of OA and address the current status of MSCs as a novel potential therapeutic agent in OA treatment.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common chronic disease and accounts for major physical pain and disability in older adults. It is assumed to be the fourth leading cause of disability in the world in 2020 []. OA consistently influences the knees, hips, hands, feet, and spine []. The knee is the most frequently affected site and accounts for almost 85% of the burden of OA worldwide, followed by the hand and hip []. The particular syndromes of OA encompass chronic pain, stiffness, mobility restriction, and joint tenderness []. A number of risk factors such as female sex, age, obesity, genetic factors, and Oxidative stress increase the chances of developing OA []. It is growing more prevalent today because of the combined factors of aging, obesity and the increasing numbers of damaged joints, and an estimated 250 million people are affected by this syndrome [].

The structural variations in OA include articular cartilage, subchondral bone, ligaments, synovium, and periarticular muscles. The articular cartilage defect is the most obvious syndrome of OA, which is caused by degeneration of the extracellular matrix [,]. People diagnosed with OA suffer physical weakness, mental pressure and impaired quality of daily life []. Currently, both nonpharmacological methods and pharmacological methods are applied to treat OA. Nonpharmacological methods, including self-management, regular exercise, and weight control, are highly recommended and are regarded as first-line treatments for OA [,]. Pharmacological methods recommended in the guidelines are paracetamol and NSAIDs, which are often used when nonpharmacological methods are not able to relieve pain and reduce disability. Patients with hip and knee OA who do not respond to topical analgesics are recommended to take intra-articular corticosteroids []. Duloxetine is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, which is recommended in some guidelines to reduce the severe pain of OA []. New treatments, such as nerve growth factor (NGF) antibodies, have been evaluated and have shown positive results in reducing pain in patients with hip and knee OA []. Surgical options such as joint replacement surgery, knee osteotomy, and knee joint distraction are either recommended for patients with late-stage OA or young and energetic patients with moderate radiographic severity in OA []. However, the above treatments are designed to reduce pain and improve the mobility of joints instead of promoting the regeneration of damaged articular cartilage. The regenerative treatments are intended to repair and replace the injured cells and tissues with new ones. As a regenerative cell therapy of OA, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have the potential of self-renewal and differentiation into cartilage and the capability of immune modulation. A number of preclinical and clinical studies have confirmed the potential for MSCs as a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of OA. In this review, we provide an extensive review of the pathogenesis and treatment of OA and emphasize the therapeutic features of bone marrow MSCs (BM-MSCs), adipose tissue-derived MSCs (AD-MSCs), and umbilical cord-derived MSCs (UC-MSCs) in OA treatment (Figure 1).

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What is osteoarthritis (OA)?



Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. Some people call it degenerative joint disease or “wear and tear” arthritis. It occurs most frequently in the hands, hips, and knees.

With OA, the cartilage within a joint begins to break down and the underlying bone begins to change. These changes usually develop slowly and get worse over time. OA can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. In some cases it also causes reduced function and disability; some people are no longer able to do daily tasks or work.

What are the signs and symptoms of OA?

  • Pain or aching
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion (or flexibility)
  • Swelling

How many people have OA?

OA affects over 32.5 million US adults.

What causes OA?

OA is caused by damage or breakdown of joint cartilage between bones.

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