Purpose of review: Accumulating evidence indicates that every tissue contains stem cells. Our understanding of the biology of stem cells reveals that these cell populations have a critical role in the homeostasis and repair of tissues. Besides the local stem cell niches, additional compartments in the body such as the bone marrow may serve as reservoirs for stem cell populations. On more extensive tissue damage, and guided by local repair responses, "reparative" cell populations are mobilized from more distant stem cell reservoirs and migrate to the site of injury, thereby contributing in many aspects of local tissue repair.
Recent findings: Osteoarthritis has long been regarded as an imbalance between destructive and reparative processes. The lack of repair of the weight-bearing articular cartilage and the associated subchondral bone changes are considered of critical importance in the progression of the disease. Recent findings indicate a depletion and/or functional alteration of mesenchymal stem cell populations in osteoarthritis. These preliminary data suggest that in joint diseases such as osteoarthritis, it is of importance to investigate further the involvement of the stem cell pool in the mechanisms contributing to joint homeostasis and driving disease progression.
Summary: In view of the emerging body of evidence pointing to a potential therapeutic utility of stem cell technology, it is not surprising that local delivery of mesenchymal stem cells has been explored as a therapeutic approach in animal models of osteoarthritis.
Copyright 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins