Introduction: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease characterized by cartilage degradation and subchondral bone alterations. This disease represents a global public health problem whose prevalence is rapidly growing with the increasing aging of the population. With the discovery of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) as possible therapeutic agents, their potential for repairing cartilage damage in OA is under investigation.
Areas covered: Characterization of MSCs and their functional properties are mentioned with an insight into their trophic function and secretory profile. We present a special focus on the types of extracellular vesicles (EVs) that are produced by MSCs and their role in the paracrine activity of MSCs. We then discuss the therapeutic approaches that have been evaluated in pre-clinical models of OA and the results coming out from the clinical trials in patients with OA.
Expert opinion: MSC-based therapy seems a promising approach for the treatment of patients with OA. Further research is still needed to demonstrate their efficacy in clinical trials using controlled, prospective studies. However, the emergence of MSC-derived EVs as possible therapeutic agents could be an alternative to cell-based therapy.
Keywords: extracellular vesicles; mesenchymal stem cells; osteoarthritis; regenerative medicine; trophic factors.