Stem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the U.S., affecting nearly 27 million adults. It is currently an incurable disease in which the joints deteriorate. (KFSN)

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the U.S., affecting nearly 27 million adults. It is currently an incurable disease in which the joints deteriorate. Now, a therapy that has been used in eye surgery and to heal the skin of burn victims is being used for the first time in knees. This new form of treatment involves stem cells from amniotic fluid.

As a professional photographer, climbing up step ladders and walking down stairs are part of the daily grind for 65-year-old Linda Schwartz.

"There's constant activity; you're moving the whole time, really," Schwartz told Ivanhoe.

But the pain of osteoarthritis in both of her knees was making all that activity a little harder.

Schwartz detailed, "I tried cortisone shots. I had something called Euflexxa. I was sent to physical therapy twice. I mean, I did try acupuncture in my knees. But it didn't really seem to make a difference."

Adam Yanke, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, explained, "It's like the rubber on the tire. So as you start to lose the rubber in your tire and the rim hits the road, that's what happens when you have bone on bone arthritis and you've lost all the cartilage in your knee." (Read Full Interview)

Dr. Yanke enrolled Schwartz in an experimental new therapy that involved injecting amniotic fluid that contained stem cells donated by healthy mothers into the knees of osteoarthritis patients.

"Between the two of those they're a potent anti-inflammatory and they also have growth factors that help promote healing or healthy growth of tissue," said Dr. Yanke.

It was by far the most effective pain treatment that Schwartz has tried. Unlike cortisone shots, there are no side effects. The pain relief has so far lasted up to a year.

"It was a very gradual feeling of it's a little bit better, it's a little bit better, and then realizing, wow, it's really pretty good," said Schwartz.

The one drawback is this therapy is not for patients whose arthritis is so bad it requires knee replacement surgery. Even though it's still in the experimental stage, Dr. Yanke offers the stem cell treatment to his patients. But at a cost of $2,200 a shot, it is not yet covered by insurance.

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