World arthritis day is celebrated on October 12. For many sufferers everywhere, the young and not so young, this is a bitter-sweet day. After all, who wants to be reminded of the pain they suffer on a daily basis, sometimes making sleep impossible, or walking a nightmare.
Yet there is now shining a glimmer of hope, hopefully an affordable one for the many and not the few.
There is a condition called Polydactyly, which affects up to one in a 1,000 babies, either due to a genetic trait or a blip in the development process. As a baby forms in the womb, the hand takes the shape of a paddle, separating into individual fingers later. Sometimes a single finger or toe divides again, creating an extra appendage.
This surplus digit is sometimes fully developed, with normal bone, blood vessels, muscles and nerves. Doctors normally surgically remove such digits around the age of two, discarding them as medical waste.
But new research, published in the journal npj Regenerative Medicine, suggests recycling these joints could help patients with osteoarthritis to avoid knee replacement surgery.
Researchers are taking cartilage — the tough, flexible substance that cushions joints — from inside discarded healthy joints and using it to replace worn-out cartilage in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Human tissue normally bound for the rubbish bin is being used to ease the pain of knee arthritis. The technique involves extracting healthy cartilage from fingers and toes surgically removed from people born with extra digits.
There are millions of people in the world who suffer from osteoarthritis, where the protective cartilage within a joint breaks down, leaving bone rubbing painfully on bone. It can also develop from wear and tear; other factors include being overweight, a family history and sports injuries.
Arthritis, it is not just one clinical condition. Anti-inflammatory painkillers help but can damage the stomach if used long-term. Steroid injections to dampen inflammation risk a cortisone flare, where the steroid (cortisone) crystallizes inside the joint, triggering more inflammation. In the UK and around the world, hundreds of thousands of people a year with osteoarthritis have a knee replacement — major surgery that can leave a foot-long scar, with full recovery taking up to a year.
To investigate alternative treatments, the Tokai University team collected discarded fingers, removed the cartilage from them and extracted cells (called chondrocytes), which can turn into healthy new cartilage.
The cells were grown in a lab to form small 'sheets' of cartilage which were implanted into volunteers' knee joints.
After 12 months, scans showed the new cartilage had continued to grow in all ten volunteers, replacing their own worn-out cartilage.
All ten patients treated with small sheets of cartilage made from unwanted fingers and toes as part of a pilot project at Tokai University in Tokyo, Japan, went on to show complete regeneration of their own cartilage in damaged knees over the following 12 months, avoiding the need for a replacement knee joint.
Checks using the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Score (measuring pain, stiffness and mobility) showed all ten were also largely pain-free and enjoying a better quality of life. No adverse effects were reported.
"This has the potential to allow people to walk their entire lives on their own knees, without requiring artificial joints,' said researcher Professor Masato Sato".
Professor Paul Lee, a consultant orthopedic surgeon in Harley Street, London, told Good Health unwanted cartilage is usually destroyed, adding: "This is an excellent way of recycling it so the cartilage can be used as an alternative to joint replacement".
Those who are not sufferers of this condition, and maybe some who are, may question the long term benefits, side effects and even the moral concept of the new discovery. Yet, how much does this differ from stem cell research which is saving lives, even though many questions are still unanswered.
Stem Cell usages
Stem cells are being used in various ways. Stem cells are cells that can develop into different types of cells in the body. They have various uses, such as:
Repairing and renewing damaged or diseased tissues and organs.
Replacing cells that are lost due to aging, injury, or disease.
Serving as a way to fight some types of cancer and blood-related diseases.
Researching causes and treatments of genetic defects and diseases.
For instance, stem cells have been used therapeutically to repair damaged or diseased organs, such as bone marrow transplants, corneal transplants, and skin grafts for burns 2. Stem cells have also been used as model cells to study how diseases develop or for drug testing 3. Recently, researchers have found that stem cells can be used to breathe new life into lungs.
The main sources of stem cells are;
Adult body tissues, such as bone marrow, which contain adult stem cells that can develop into the kind of cells found in the tissues where they reside.
Embryos, which contain embryonic stem cells that can develop into any type of cell in the body. However, the extraction of these cells raises ethical issues.
Genetic reprogramming techniques, which aim to create stem cells from other cells by altering their genes.
Many persons, if offered the choice between pain and Polydactyly treatments, may gladly jump at the chance to live a more productive and pain free life. The human body is amazing, we just have to tap into its many hidden potentials.
Eating more fruit for mood
FRUIT — to boost mood. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the more often people ate fruit, the lower they scored for depression and the higher they scored for mental well-being.
The significant levels of antioxidants, fiber and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) found in fruit may promote optimal brain function, the researchers from Aston University believed.
Positive reinforcement is always welcome.
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