Osteoarthritis diminishes quality of life for millions of Americans. Current surgeries and other treatments are often painful and require a long recovery period. But researchers in Connecticut are hoping to find a way to use stem cells to make the treatment easier and less invasive.
David Bauman is still walking with a cane. He had one knee replaced in January, and a total hip replacement in October. "The pain involved is really considerable," said David. The answer to his and so many other's long and painful recovery could lie in this University of Connecticut Health Center Lab. Ph.D. Grad Student John Shepard looks at slides of a mouse joint with osteoarthritis. The cartilage shows up red. "This is relatively normal looking cartilage here and this would be an area of damaged cartilage, you can see there's a tear," said Shepard. That breakdown of cartilage is what causes debilitating osteoarthritis, which 21-million Americans suffer from. "The joint cartilage that helps people move when they walk and move around, that cartilage wears down over time and it doesn't repair itself," said Caroline Dealy.
Scientist Caroline Dealy is a U-Conn Associate Professor, heading up the research. It involves using human embryonic stem cells to actually make new cartilage. And Dealy says the potential is endless with stem cells. "One of the reasons they're so exciting is that they have the potential to form any tissue in the whole body, but the trick with that is telling the cells exactly what to do," said Dealy. And what's more, scientists have cracked a so-called instruction list, actually telling stem cells be become cartilage. "We've done that in a laboratory in a dish and now the next step is to find out whether those cells can work, can they do the job we want?" asked Dealy. Dealy says the next step is to test it in an animal model with osteoarthritis.
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