Thu | Apr 15, 2021

Stem cells to treat osteoarthritis

Published:Wednesday | November 27, 2019 | 12:26 AM
Research shows that stem cells release anti-inflammatory factors that help in healing and lessen pain.
Research shows that stem cells release anti-inflammatory factors that help in healing and lessen pain.

Arthritis caused by the wear and tear on the joint surface is called osteoarthritis. It is very common as we age. The bone on the joint surface is covered by a grizzle or cartilage that eventually wears out.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic, progressive disease characterised by the deterioration and destruction of the joint. As the cartilage degenerates, the bones rub together, resulting in pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints, most commonly the knees, hips, hands and spine.

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease worldwide, affecting an estimated 10 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women over 60 years of age. The social and economic burden of OA is considerable, at between 1.0 per cent and 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product in some developed countries.

As OA is associated mainly with old age, with improvements in life expectancy, rates of OA will increase.


Currently, treatment for OA centres around symptoms management with joint replacement for end-stage disease. Pain in osteoarthritis is a marker of active inflammation which is usually treated using pain medications and steroids.

Current research is focusing on the development of new rugs for arthritis such as fibroblast growth factors, which aims at producing more effective disease and pain control with less side effects.

Furthermore, regenerative therapies, including platelet rich plasma, platelet rich fibrin and stem cells from your own body are also emerging as promising ­alternatives, as they have the potential to decrease inflammation, reduce disease ­progression, reduce pain and to enhance cartilage repair and possibly restore healthy tissue.


Sandra is an 80-year-old retired banking executive who decided to have a go at regenerative therapies. She decided to do a stem cell therapy, as it is usually a one-time treatment compared with platelet rich plasma therapy that takes two-three sessions. She had pain in both knees but the left was particularly swollen. Despite her age, Sandra led an active lifestyle and travelled between Kingston and Montego Bay.

Since stem cells are the body’s natural repair cells, we can move them from one area, activate them and place them somewhere that needs help with pain, healing or circulation.

Research shows that stem cells release anti-­inflammatory factors that help in healing and lessen pain. They can be easily collected from fat or bone marrow and are able to turn into cartilage, bone, muscle, tendon, ligaments, or fat, depending on the type of tissue that surrounds them. This is why stem cells are used in treatments for ­osteoarthritis, sports injuries, sprains and strains.

Most clinics that offer stem cell treatments for osteoarthritis will suggest that you try other ways to manage the disease before you try stem cell treatment. This may include a change of diet, exercise, physiotherapy, bracing, orthotics, anti-inflammatory or other pain medicines, or non-cell joint injections.

Now Sandra is travelling the world pain free and enjoying a new lease on life as she dances the nights away. She encourages her friends and colleagues to read about safe alternatives that can improve quality of life.


Despite all the successes, regenerative therapies are not for everyone and is still under considerable investigation. Available therapies and research is advancing but there are many unmet needs in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Stem cells do not substitute for joint replacement in advanced disease but may provide pain control and reduce the rate of degeneration.

At Bioregeneration Integrated Medical Centre, we always propose a holistic approach, starting with a healthy diet that reduces the intake of inflammatory foods, targeted spices such as curcumin, weight reduction, physiotherapy and lifestyle management as we work with a team of therapists and orthopaedic surgeons to decide on the best protocol for each patient.

Dr Janice Simmonds-Fisher, MBBS, DNM is head of BioRegeneration, located in St Andrew and St James. Email feedback to and