London: The day is not far when painful hip and knee replacement surgeries would be history, for British scientists are developing a treatment wherein damaged joints could be rejuvenated by injections of stem cells.
The technique, which is being developed at Manchester University, is likely to be cheaper for the health service, reports The Daily Mail.
Replacement surgery is a complicated and lengthy process and is not successful in every case, and in some cases, the artificial joints usually last for only ten to 15 years, meaning some patients have to be operated on over and over again.
Scientists from Manchester University and Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust are using the power of embryonic stem cells to turn into other cell types.
They have found the ‘recipe’ to coax stem cells into quickly transforming into chondrocytes, the cells that go on to produce cartilage.
Up to 97 per cent of the cells generated in experiments were chondrocytes, making the technique much more successful than methods tried else where, the journal Nature Biotechnology reports.
“The beauty is that it takes just two weeks in a dish and it gives a high efficiency of cells which have the characteristics of immature chondrocytes,” researcher Professor Sue Kimber said.
However, embryonic stem cell therapy is is controversial because they are plucked from an embryo in its first days of life. But researchers say they are easier to work with in the lab and multiply more quickly than stem cells taken from the adult body.
Although much more research is necessary, a stem cell jab for human joints could be available in just a decade.
The treatment may also be suitable for injured sportsmen and women judged to be too young to undergo the trauma of joint replacement surgery and could be beneficial to arthritis sufferers too.