London: Raising hope for millions suffering
from knee and hip problems, scientists have claimed that it would soon be possible for the patients to `grow` properly working joints inside their body using their own stem cells.
An American team, which carried out a pioneering study on rabbits, said the results could pave the way for a future where people can grow bone and cartilage inside their own bodies after damaged bones have been removed.
They claimed that the joints will have a full range of
movement, be able to bear weight and may even last longer than
the current generation of artificial devices.
That would save patients from repeat surgery after their
original hip or knee replacement, which usually last 15-20
years, has worn out, they added.
"This is the first time an entire joint surface was
regenerated with return of functions including-weight bearing
and locomotion," lead researcher Prof Jeremy Mao of New York`s
Columbia University was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
For their study, the researchers used a computer to help
create artificial frames that were the same size and shape as
rabbit hip joints.
These frames were infused with a growth hormone and
implanted into ten rabbits after the animals` hip joints had
Attracted by the growth hormone, the rabbits` own stem
cells went to the location of the missing joint and
regenerated cartilage and bone in two separate layers.
Just three to four weeks after surgery, the rabbits had
fully regained movement and could bear weight similar to
animals who had never undergone surgery.
The rabbits had grown the joints using their stem cells,
instead of relying on an injection of stem cells into their
This is the first time scientists have regenerated a
complete limb joint using either harvested stem cells or an
animal`s own stem cells.
Previously scientists have grown "spare part tissue" in
the laboratory from patients` stem cells for use in repairing
diseased organs, including heart valves and bladders.
Professor Mao said: "In patients who need the knee,
shoulder, hip or finger joints regenerated, the rabbit model
provides a proof of principle."
But humans could be more challenging as they have only
two legs to bear weight, the researchers said, detailing their
research in medical journal `The Lancet`.
Dr Patrick Warnke from Bond University in Australia, said
the research offered a "promising insight" into what might
happen in the future for patients.
A person would also be immobile for a considerable period
of time while their new joint grows, he said.
Scientists at Leeds University are also developing a
similar treatment and said small replacement body parts, such
as patches to repair clogged arteries, could be routinely
grown by 2015.
But it may take 20-30 years to develop the more advanced