Background: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating disease that typically affects a large number of the middle-aged and elderly population. Current treatment strategies have had limited success in these patients. This study aims to investigate the safety of treatment with autologous bone marrow (BM)-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) transplanted in patients with OA of the knee, ankle, or hip.
Methods: We enrolled 18 patients with different joint involvements (knee, ankle, or hip OA) and one was lost to follow-up. BM samples were taken from the patients, after which BM-derived MSCs were isolated and cultured. Each patient received one MSC injection. Patients were followed with clinical examinations, MRI and laboratory tests at 2, 6, 12, and 30 months post-transplantation.
Results: We observed no severe adverse events such as pulmonary embolism, death, or systemic complications. A limited number of patients had very minor localized adverse effects such as rash and erythema. There were no changes in liver function, hematology, or biochemistry analyses before and after cell therapy. There was no evidence of tumor or neoplastic changes in the patients during the 30-month follow-up period. All patients exhibited therapeutic benefits such as increased walking distance, decreased visual analog scale (VAS), and total Western Ontario and McMaster Universities OA Index (WOMAC) scores which were confirmed by MRI.
Conclusions: Our study has shown that injection of MSCs in different OA affected joints is safe and therapeutically beneficial. However, further studies are needed with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up periods to confirm these findings.