NSLHD News August 1 2022

Researchers investigate if stem cells can reverse osteoarthritis damage

NSLHD researchers are seeking participants for a large-scale clinical trial pioneering the use of stem cells to treat and potentially cure osteoarthritis. The disease is now one of the leading causes of disability in the world, affecting around three million people in Australia alone. Royal North Shore Hospital rheumatologist Professor David Hunter is leading the two- year trial which is recruiting around 400 participants aged over 40 who have painful osteoarthritis in their knees. Participants will receive three injections over a 12 month period, with researchers assessing levels of pain, physical activity and quality of life throughout the trial. Professor Hunter, a world-leading researcher based at the Kolling Institute, said the team are evaluating whether stems cells can alleviate symptoms, and importantly, modify the underlying disease. “We believe stem cells likely have the capacity to regulate inflammation, and hopefully through that process allow the joint to repair itself,” he said. “What we’re hoping to do is reduce inflammation in a part of the knee joint known as the synovium, and by doing so, reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. “We will also be examining whether the stem cell therapy can slow and even reverse the progression of the disease.” The study follows some small trials which indicated stem cell therapy may reduce

Dr Sarah Robbins from the Osteoarthritis Research Group

inflammation and help the body repair cartilage. These earlier studies found that injecting stem cells into the affected joint not only reduced the pain, but repaired the damage caused by osteoarthritis. “We know there is tremendous interest in stem cell therapy and many products on the market, but to date, there has been no strong evidence to confirm this approach is effective,” he said. “It’s really important that we have high- quality trials like this one to produce the evidence we need around efficacy and safety. “We may then be in a better position to offer those managing the condition a range of treatment options, on top of the existing approach of weight loss and exercise.” Further information about the Sculptor study is available at: www.tinyurl.com/ sculptor-trial If you are interested in joining the trial, email sculptor.trial@sydney.edu.au or call 9463 1855.

Professor David Hunter



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