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What Arthritic Mice Teach Us About Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Aug 25, 2014 1:00:01 PM / by Daisy Goodrich

Mesenchymal stem cells therapy is raved as being the champion of immune modulators. Can  the promise be realized?

Looking at the hands, rheumatoid arthritis is easy to spot. The painful and debilitating deformations result from cartilage and bone destruction, and from synovial (bone joint) inflammation and swelling. Other features are not so easy to spot. They include autoantibody production and disorders of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, psychological, and skeletal systems. A serious disease all around, but new biologic drugs have been effective.[1]

mesenchymal stem cells Mesenchymal stem cells are being investigated as therapy for rheumatoid arthritis characterized by deformed hands. Image credits:

Regrettably, there are barriers to modern medicine for patients who do not respond. Then, there are several reasons for which others discontinue the drug after a couple of years. Clearly, modern medicine has not solved our struggle with rheumatoid arthritis, and the quest for a better therapy continues.

Mesenchymal stem cells have become the new champion immune modulators for autoimmune diseases.   As such, they have demonstrated a potential for soothing the immune system to provide amelioration of the disease state. In theory, mesenchymal stem cells are the ideal therapeutic intervention for rheumatoid arthritis. In practice, we observe less than desirable outcomes.

We discussed several factors that may contribute to discrepancies in expected versus observed clinical outcomes with mesenchymal stem cells in a previous blog. Those elements also exert their influence in preclinical animal model studies. For example, the route of administration to animal models of rheumatoid arthritis can put cells in a pathway that leads to their removal from circulation before reaching the target organ.[1]

In light of the hurdles to achieving their in vivo therapeutic potential, scientists utilized an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis and injected mesenchymal stem cells directly at the target site through intra-articular injections in bone joints.[1] Such cell therapy prevented cartilage damage when given at the peak of joint swelling. Further, inflammation was reduced and exudate in the joint cavity decreased. PBMCs in the exudate mainly comprise neutrophils which are culprits in inflammatory joint disease, and they were markedly reduced with cell therapy.

The results of this study are promising. The next logical step would be to test human mesenchymal stem cells in animal models that permit the engraftment of xenografts. We at HemaCare provide human mesenchymal stem cells and applaud the pursuit of therapeutic promises for inflammatory diseases.


1. Kehoe O, et al. Intra-articular injection of mesenchymal stem cells leads to reduced inflammation and cartilage damage in murine antigen-induced arthritis. J Transl Med. 2014 Jun 3;12(1):157. PubMed PMID: 24893776


Topics: Neutrophils, rheumatoid arthritis, Basic Research

Daisy Goodrich

Written by Daisy Goodrich

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