Cell-based versus corticosteroid injections for knee pain in osteoarthritis: a randomized phase 3 trial

Nat Med. 2023 Dec;29(12):3120-3126. doi: 10.1038/s41591-023-02632-w. Epub 2023 Nov 2.


Various types of cellular injection have become a popular and costly treatment option for patients with knee osteoarthritis despite a paucity of literature establishing relative efficacy to each other or corticosteroid injections. Here we aimed to identify the safety and efficacy of cell injections from autologous bone marrow aspirate concentrate, autologous adipose stromal vascular fraction and allogeneic human umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stromal cells, in comparison to corticosteroid injection (CSI). The study was a phase 2/3, four-arm parallel, multicenter, single-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial with 480 patients with a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis (Kellgren-Lawrence II-IV). Participants were randomized to the three different arms with a 3:1 distribution. Arm 1: autologous bone marrow aspirate concentrate (n = 120), CSI (n = 40); arm 2: umbilical cord tissue-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (n = 120), CSI (n = 40); arm 3: stromal vascular fraction (n = 120), CSI (n = 40). The co-primary endpoints were the visual analog scale pain score and Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score pain score at 12 months versus baseline. Analyses of our primary endpoints, with 440 patients, revealed that at 1 year post injection, none of the three orthobiologic injections was superior to another, or to the CSI control. In addition, none of the four groups showed a significant change in magnetic resonance imaging osteoarthritis score compared to baseline. No procedure-related serious adverse events were reported during the study period. In summary, this study shows that at 1 year post injection, there was no superior orthobiologic as compared to CSI for knee osteoarthritis. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03818737.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / complications
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / drug therapy
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03818737