Damaged cartilage is not able to regenerate efficiently.
Over the years, the defect worsens and further cartilage degeneration occurs, often leading to surgery for the implantation of a joint prosthesis to restore functionality of the joint.
Theracell has developed a series of autologous therapies in orthopedics, aimed at preventing damage or halting it at an early stage. These therapies are used for the biological regeneration of articular cartilage defects by means of the body’s own cells (stem cells or chondrocytes). They take advantage of the healing properties of the growth factors contained in the patient’s plasma, as well as the healing properties of adipose-derived stem cells.
Mechanism of action
It has been shown that stem cells may be able to reduce joint pain and increase function in patients with severe arthritis. The following steps describe in detail what happens in a degenerating joint, before and after the injection of stem cells:
- In a degenerating joint with severe arthritis, the lining of the joint (the synovial lining) becomes thickened with macrophages. These cells take up cellular debris and help maintain the joint micro-environment.
- The problem with arthritis is that cartilage breakdown products activate macrophages in the synovial lining of the joint and these activated macrophages, due to activation of pro-inflammatory processes, fuel further damage to cartilage tissue.
- The stem cells that have been injected into the defective area, detect and then bind and deactivate the macrophages, stopping their ability to further destroy the joint.
- At the same time, the stem cells produce a variety of proteins (mainly “helper” growth factors), that activate the body’s internal regeneration ability, promoting tissue repair. This mode of action is referred to as the paracrine effect of stem cells.
- Finally, part of the injected cells will differentiate into cartilage, thus completing a cascade of events that take place in the osteoarthritic joint.
Inactivation of macrophages and the secretion of “helper” growth factors explain the long-term anti-inflammatory effect seen with stem cells. This mechanism of action shows how stem cells may decrease pain and swelling. The above model also suggests that stem cells have a disease modifying effect, by restoring the balance of cells within the joint: there is an increase in the number of “facilitating” stem cells and a decrease in the number of “destructive” macrophages, thereby reducing the self-destruction of the joint.