Stem Cell Therapy in Osteoarthritis: A Step Too Far?
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Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disease and, until now, no effective medical treatment has been developed, apart from total joint replacement in end-stage disease. Since mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) can on one hand be the source of newly formed cartilage, and on the other hand inhibit inflammation with their immunomodulatory capacities, these cells are, on a theoretical basis, ideal for the treatment of OA. As a result, MSC-based treatments for OA patients are currently offered worldwide. However, the effectiveness of this treatment and the potential associated risks are not well known. To develop MSC-based treatment of OA into a generally accepted, clinically effective and safe cure, extensive studies have to be performed in controlled experimental and clinical settings. Stem cell therapy is a remedy with the potential for a great future; however, this outlook could be jeopardized if this treatment is introduced too early into clinical practice.