Irish scientists grow closer to finding arthritis cure

NUIG is conducting trials with the EU using stem cells

The first signs of a cure for arthritis have been seen in a study involving Irish scientists. Researchers at NUI Galway (NUIG) and across the European Union are using stem cells from patients to try to regenerate cartilage.

The treatment is still in the early stages of clinical trials if successful, their work could lead to effective new treatments for millions of arthritis sufferers. NUIG says early results indicate the treatment could become a reality for patients within the next five years.

Osteoarthritis affects more than 70 million EU citizens, including over 400,000 in Ireland. It is the most common form of human arthritis and is characterised by the degeneration of cartilage in joints, which can become very painful.

Researchers under the EU-funded ADIPOA project are working to better understand a new treatment for osteoarthritis based on stem cell therapy.

The research team is seeking to determine how adipose (fat)-derived stem cells injected into diseased joints can activate the regeneration of cartilage. The Phase 1 clinical trial has just finished.

In recent years, these cells have emerged as a good alternative to bone marrow-derived stem cells.

Researchers say, for one thing, body fat is easily available through minimally invasive surgical procedures. Secondly, fat is available in large quantities allowing doctors to harvest a lot of stem cells at one time.

Professor Frank Barry is Scientific Director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUIG.

"From the clinical trials conducted so far, we have seen the first signs of finding a cure for this truly incapacitating disease which affects so many" he said.

"Using the patient's own stem cells we have been able to treat their diseased joints and relieve their suffering and burden of pain".

"Whilst we are still in the early stages of clinical trials the results so far are extremely positive such that the use of stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis could become a reality for patients within the next five years" he added.