Over 100 conditions fall under the term arthritis, with varying causes but similar symptoms: chronic pain in the joints, muscles and bones, stiffness and swelling. Disability can be mild or crippling. Arthritis can be degenerative, as with osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on the joints due to genetic and/or mechanical stresses or injury. Arthritis can also be inflammatory, as with rheumatoid arthritis, where the cause is an autoimmune attack on the lining of the joints. There is no cure for arthritis and current treatments are focused on reducing pain and minimize the loss of function.
Currently there are no Health Canada or FDA approved stem cell treatments available for arthritis. However, research looks very promising and some early phase clinical trials have emerged. Currently, most research is focused on using stem cells to increase the body’s ability to regenerate cartilage, on methods to grow and graft replacement joints, and on identifying stem cells that can boost our resistance to inflammation.