By Ted Swing, Ph.D
Some new treatments for degenerative joint conditions involves injections of biologics that may be able to slow the degeneration of joint tissues or even stimulate regrowth of damaged tissues.
In addition to the clinical trials we conduct with outside sponsors, we also conduct internal studies of available treatments to provide scientific evidence of their efficacy. Currently, we have an ongoing study comparing regenerative treatments for degenerative conditions of the joints, such as arthritis.
Certain conditions can cause a breakdown of cartilage and other tissues in the joints. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. This particularly affects smaller joints such as those in the hands and feet. Additionally, osteoarthritis is a very common cause of chronic pain. Osteoarthritis is characterized by the gradual degeneration of joints and occurs to varying extents for different people as we age. These degenerative conditions of the joints can affect joints in the upper extremities (e.g., hands, shoulders), lower extremities (e.g., hip, knee), as well as the joints of the lower back.
Degenerative conditions that cause chronic pain and interfere with daily functioning are often managed with medications. In particular, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or Celebrex, are widely used for treating these conditions. Injections of certain drugs, such as hyaluronic acid can provide patients with months of relief. Some patients also undergo surgeries, such as joint replacements, for degenerative joint conditions.
Some new treatments for degenerative joint conditions involves injections of biologics that may be able to slow the degeneration of joint tissues or even stimulate regrowth of damaged tissues. One such treatment is platelet rich plasma (PRP). This treatment involves drawing some of the patients’ blood which is then spun in a centrifuge to separate it into layers. The red blood cells separate to the bottom layer and the top layer consists of platelet poor plasma. The middle layer contains concentrated platelets — the cells best known for their role in sealing wounds by clotting the blood at the site of an injury. Platelets also contain proteins and growth factors involved in healing damaged tissues. PRP can be concentrated from the patient’s blood in about 20 minutes and injected at the site of an injury during the same visit to stimulate healing.
Another potentially regenerative treatment involves the injection of amniotic tissues, such as Amniotic Tissue Therapy. Amniotic Tissue Therapy is a product that consists of amniotic tissues collected from healthy donors during caesarian births without harming the mother or infant and then cryopreserved. These amniotic tissues contain collagen, which fills the void in a degenerated joint and provides scaffolding for new tissues to form. Amniotic tissues also contain stem cells that can potentially regrow damaged tissues.
Regenerative Treatment Study
We are currently conducting a study of PRP and Amniotic Tissue Therapy for degenerative joint conditions such as osteoarthritis. A single injection of PRP or Amniotic Tissue Therapy is available at a reduced price through this study to qualifying patients. Patients who have had moderate to severe chronic pain of a joint in the upper or lower extremities or the lower back for at least three months may be eligible. Patients must not have had surgery on the affected joint to qualify through the study. Potentially qualifying patients may complete a clinical interview and questionnaires to determine their eligibility for the study. If they qualify, they may receive a single injection of PRP or Amniotic Tissue Therapy and then complete four follow up visits over six months after the injection assessing changes in their pain and daily functioning. The goal of this study is to determine the efficacy of these treatments in relieving pain and improving functioning.