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The Future of Joint Repair

Arthritis Today reporter Linda Rath writes on the future of joint repair as it relates to regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine includes interventions such as stem cell and tissue-engineering procedures that aim to repair tissues and organs who have failed to repair themselves or recover from injury.

She interviews Riley J. Williams III, MD, sports medicine surgeon at HSS, who explains that it's important to separate what goes on in reputable research institutions from certain for-profit clinics that may hawk therapies of questionable value.

Dr. Williams has been treating damaged knee cartilage with fat-derived MSCs (mesenchymal stem cells) for the past three years with minimal side effects.

"I'm really excited about the prospects for treating very early arthritis and some chronic overuse injuries," says Dr. Williams. "Stem cells are not going to work for bone-on-bone arthritis, but they are helpful when people are just starting to have some pain and swelling."

Brian C. Halpern, MD, primary care sports medicine physician at HSS, explains that the true number of stem cells in bone marrow and fat is vanishingly small. "If we could take the bone marrow to the lab and isolate the small population of stem cells and expand them in culture - then we'd really have something."

This article appears in the Winter 2018-2019 print edition.