The Role of Stem Cells in Cartilage Repair and Regeneration

Funding Type: 
New Faculty II
Grant Number: 
ICOC Funds Committed: 
Public Abstract: 

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 $120 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 is limited to pain reduction and joint replacement surgery.

Stem cells have tremendous potential for treating disease and replacing or regenerating the diseased tissue. This grant proposal will be valuable in weighing options for using stems cells in arthritis. It is very important to know the effect of aging on stems cells and how stem cell replacement might effectively treat the causes of osteoarthritis.

In Aim 1, we will test whether stem cells can improve the healing of cartilage after surgery.
In Aim 2, we will find out if stem cells can improve the function of the cells in diseased cartilage.
In Aim 3, we will find out if arthritic cartilage can signal stem cells to migrate into the diseased tissue and start repairing the tissue.

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.

Statement of Benefit to California: 

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 the ethical issues of stem cell research have slowed the progress of scientific discoveries in this field, especially in the US. The CIRM is a unique institute that fosters ethical stem cell research in California. The CIRM also serves as an exemplary model for similar programs in other states and countries.

This grant proposal falls under the mission statement of the CIRM of funding innovative and untested research. The proposal will generate highly innovative results in the treatment of cartilage degeneration and osteoarthritis and will explore the potential use of tissue-engineered products from stem cells. At a minimum, new insight into the role of stem cells as anti-arthritic agents will be gained. If successful, this will further validate the significance of the CIRM program and will help maintain California's leading position at the cutting edge of biomedical research.