A jab of placental tissue may help alleviate the pain of arthritic knees.
The treatment is made from the inner layer of the placenta, which provides the growing foetus with oxygen and nutrients.
Earlier research shows that a single injection of the tissue — which is first processed — can reduce pain and other symptoms associated with osteoarthritis for up to one year.
The treatment is made from the inner layer of the placenta, which provides the growing foetus with oxygen and nutrients [File photo]
Now around 700 people are taking part in a trial due to start in the U.S. this month to compare the jab to a placebo of saline solution.
Around one in five adults aged over 45 years — more than four million people — has osteoarthritis of the knee, according to the charity Versus Arthritis.
In a healthy knee, cartilage (a firm but rubbery material) covers the end of the bones in a joint, acting as a cushion, and provides a smooth, gliding surface to allow painless movement.
But in osteoarthritis, this protective surface breaks down through wear and tear, causing pain, swelling and problems moving the joint. Bony growths can develop, and the area may become red and swollen.
A wide range of treatments are available, from weight loss to take pressure off the joint, to painkillers. Many people ultimately need a joint replacement.
The new treatment, ReNu, developed by UK-U.S.-based firm Organogenesis is made of cells from the amniotic membrane, the inner layer of the placenta which is, with the mother’s permission, harvested from the placenta donated after childbirth.
The tissue is processed and kept frozen at -70c to -90c until it is needed.
Amniotic tissue is a rich source of stem cells, which can develop into many different types of cells, including cartilage.
It also contains anti-inflammatory compounds, collagen (a protein that provides strength and structure to tissue), and growth factors that, as well as the stem cells, can trigger the repair and regeneration of tissues, including cartilage.
The placenta also contains hyaluronic acid which lubricates joints, helping to ease pain and restore movement.
Doctors carrying out the trial will monitor patients for up to a year, comparing outcomes against people not having the treatment.
Previous research involving 100 patients who had the treatment found that 69 per cent of patients had an improvement of symptoms lasting for at least six months.
On average, patients who responded to the treatment, had a 63 per cent reduction in pain.
Roger Hackney, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Spire and Nuffield hospitals in Leeds, says that as cartilage cannot heal in humans, the experimental jabs could have promise.
He said: ‘Studies such as this are hugely important if they can provide evidence that the product has something other than the placebo effect. ’
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Tiny kidneys created using 3D printing are helping scientists understand more about the causes of kidney damage, and could pave the way for growing transplant organs in the lab [File photo]
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