Arthritis is the result of degeneration of cartilage (the tissue lining the joints) and leads to pain and limitation of function. Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases are among the most common of all health conditions and are the number one cause of disability in the United States. The annual economic impact of arthritis in the U.S. is estimated at over $65 billion, representing more than 2% of the gross domestic product. The prevalence of arthritic conditions is also expected to increase as the population increases and ages in the coming decades. Current treatment options for osteoarthritis include pain relief and joint replacement surgery.
Stem cells have tremendous potential for treating disease and replacing or regenerating the diseased tissue. This grant proposal will generate results that will be valuable in weighing options for using stems cells. Research is ongoing in the causes of aging in the stems cells and how cell replacement might effectively treat the causes of osteoarthritis.
The first aim of our study will be to induce stem cells to produce cartilage-like tissue. We propose to identify the differences in the type and quantity of cartilage tissue produced by embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells obtained from healthy and arthritic donors. These experiments will help us understand how stem cells age and whether stem cell function changes with disease. These results will be very valuable in identifying the potential for treatment using stem cells from different sources and donors.
The second aim of our study is to determine whether implanting stem cells in a cartilage defect in normal cartilage produces the same result as implanting in arthritic cartilage. Since arthritic cartilage produces biochemical factors different from normal cartilage we expect the stem cell response to change. We will find out if the change in response is beneficial or detrimental to the production of new cartilage tissue. In addition, we will study the effect of stem cells on arthritic cartilage. It has been suggested that stem cells fight disease and repair tissues in the body. If this is true we anticipate that stem cells implanted in arthritic cartilage may also treat the arthritis in addition to producing tissue to heal the defect in the cartilage.
An approach that heals cartilage defects as well as treats the underlying arthritis would be very valuable. If our research is successful this could lead to new ways to treat cartilage with or without stem cells. Treating cartilage degeneration would have a positive impact on the large numbers of patients who suffer from arthritis as well as in reducing the economic burden created by arthritis.
California has been at the forefront of biomedical research for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as the biotechnology capital of the world. The recent debate over the moral and ethical issues of stem cell research have slowed the progress of scientific discoveries in this field. The CIRM is a unique institute that fosters ethical stem cell research in California. If successful the CIRM may serve as a role model for similar programs in other states or countries. This grant proposal falls under the mission statement of the CIRM of funding innovative and untested research. The SEED proposal will generate preliminary yet novel results in the treatment of cartilage degeneration and osteoarthritis and extend the potential use of tissue engineered products from stem cells. At a minimum new insights in the role of stem cell as anti-arthritic agents will be gained. If successful, this will reinforce the role of the CIRM and help maintain the leading position of California at the cutting edge of biomedical research.