NUI Galway researchers are part of an exciting EU-funded project looking at how stem cells from adult fat tissue could be used to activate the regeneration of cartilage. If successful, their work could lead to effective new treatments for millions of osteoarthritis sufferers. Positive, early results indicate the treatment could become a reality for patients within the next five years.
Osteoarthritis is a disease that affects more than 70 million EU citizens, including over 400,000 in Ireland. It is the most common form of human arthritis and is characterised by the degeneration of cartilage in joints, which can become very painful.
Researchers under the EU-funded ADIPOA project are working to better understand a new treatment for osteoarthritis based on stem cell therapy. The research team is seeking to determine how adipose (fat)-derived stem cells injected into diseased joints can activate the regeneration of cartilage. The Phase 1 clinical trial has just finished.
In recent years, these cells have emerged as a good alternative to bone marrow-derived stem cells. For one thing, adipose tissue, or body fat, is easily available through minimally invasive surgical procedures. Secondly, fat is available in large quantities allowing doctors to harvest a lot of stem cells at one time.
Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway, is a partner in the ADIPOA project. Professor Barry explains “Until now there were just two possible outcomes for suffers of this progressive and debilitating disease – joint replacement surgery, in the case of advanced disease or, life-long pain management. From the clinical trials conducted so far, we have seen the first signs of finding a cure for this truly incapacitating disease which affects so many. Using the patient's own stem cells we have been able to treat their diseased joints and relieve their suffering and burden of pain. Whilst we are still in the early stages of clinical trials the results so far are extremely positive such that the use of stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis could become a reality for patients within the next 5 years.”
The FP7 ADIPOA project is a large scale integrated project with partners from France, Italy, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Ireland, and Netherlands. It has received a total of EUR 9,224, 472 in EU funding under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme for Research & Technological Development.
REMEDI is a Science Foundation Ireland-funded Strategic Research Cluster, led by NUI Galway and with partners in University College Cork and NUI Maynooth. REMEDI is a partnership between scientists, clinicians and industry and it is the leading centre in the area of stem cell and regenerative medicine in Ireland.