Purpose: The aim of this systematic review is to examine the available clinical evidence in the literature to support mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) treatment strategies in orthopaedics for cartilage defect regeneration.
Methods: The research was performed on the PubMed database considering the English literature from 2002 and using the following key words: cartilage, cartilage repair, mesenchymal stem cells, MSCs, bone marrow concentrate (BMC), bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, bone marrow stromal cells, adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells, and synovial-derived mesenchymal stem cells.
Results: The systematic research showed an increasing number of published studies on this topic over time and identified 72 preclinical papers and 18 clinical trials. Among the 18 clinical trials identified focusing on cartilage regeneration, none were randomized, five were comparative, six were case series, and seven were case reports; two concerned the use of adipose-derived MSCs, five the use of BMC, and 11 the use of bone marrow-derived MSCs, with preliminary interesting findings ranging from focal chondral defects to articular osteoarthritis degeneration.
Conclusions: Despite the growing interest in this biological approach for cartilage regeneration, knowledge on this topic is still preliminary, as shown by the prevalence of preclinical studies and the presence of low-quality clinical studies. Many aspects have to be optimized, and randomized controlled trials are needed to support the potential of this biological treatment for cartilage repair and to evaluate advantages and disadvantages with respect to the available treatments.
Level of evidence: IV.