San Diego, Calif. – Orthopedic researchers at Scripps Health were awarded a $3.1 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to investigate the potential use of stem cell therapies for the treatment of osteoarthritis, which is among the leading causes of disability in adults.
Scientists at the Shiley Center for Orthopaedic Research and Education (SCORE) at Scripps Clinic will use laboratory experiments and animal models to determine whether adult cells and embryonic stem cells can be coaxed into cartilage-generating cells and successfully transplanted.
“Stem cells are capable of making different cells in the body and renewing themselves. We will explore whether that unique ability can be harnessed to repair defects in cartilage,” said Darryl D’Lima, MD, PhD, SCORE’s laboratory director.
The research award was one of 15 early translational grants recently apportioned by the CIRM, the state’s voter-approved stem cell agency. Established by a ballot initiative in 2004, CIRM funds stem cell research at California’s universities and research institutions and aims to move promising findings from the laboratory to the clinical setting.
“Our research holds tremendous potential," said D’Lima. "We are still several years away from clinical trials, but our research marks a step toward the ultimate goal of using stem cells to repair joint wear-and-tear, and stop the osteoarthritis disease process.”
Osteoarthritis and other rheumatic diseases are among the most common of all health conditions in the United States. A study published in the September 2008 issue of Arthritis Care & Research suggests nearly one in two people will develop painful knee osteoarthritis over their lifetime, with the highest risk among those who are obese. Current treatment options for the condition are limited to pain reduction and joint replacement surgery.
“With the prevalence of osteoarthritis expected to increase as the population grows and ages in the coming decades, this opportunity to advance our understanding of stem cells as possible therapies for degenerative joint disease could not be timelier,” said Clifford Colwell, MD, SCORE’s medical director. “This funding gives SCORE the ability to use our unique talent and resources to investigate much-needed new therapies. If successful, our work could one day be used to help alleviate a great deal of pain, disability and cost caused by this disease.”