14:02 PM

Cartilage Is Grown in the Arthritic Joints of Mice

The New York Times discusses research published in Nature Medicine that has effectively demonstrated the growth of new cartilage in the joints of arthritic mice, by the awakening and stimulation of primitive cells which lie dormant at the end of the bones. Investigators would like to try and grow cartilage in larger animals and remain optimistic that this finding could eventually lead to treatments to prevent the often debilitating pain that arises when cartilage erodes away.

HSS sports medicine surgeon Robert G. Marx, MD, who was not involved in the study, cautioned that the path to a treatment that helps patients may be long and unpredictable. Scientists will need to determine not only whether the method is safe and effective, but to learn which patients are likely to be helped — those early or later in the course of arthritis — and how long the treatment will last.

“If the strategy works in humans, then early treatment may be the best approach,” said Dr. Marx. “Arthritis deforms joints and changes bones. By the time people have hips or knees replaced, irreversible damage may be done. Legs may be bowed, bones damaged,” he explained. “You cannot totally turn back the clock,” said Dr. Marx, further noting, “adding cartilage will not fix it.”

Dr. Marx expressed concern that orthopedists may not wait for rigorous studies, as the method of awakening the dormant cells is relatively simple, and the medications required are already on the market. “Faced with a patient with aching knees, orthopedists may be tempted to say, ‘Let’s try this. You don’t have much to lose,’” said Dr. Marx. “That’s the problem with a lot of things in orthopedics. There is typically widespread adoption before there is evidence,” he concluded.

Read the full article at NYtimes.com. This article also appeared in print on August 25, 2020.