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A stem cell treatment which combats the effects of osteoarthritis could be tested on patients as early as 2009.
The team that developed the technique, led by scientists at the University of Cardiff and funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign, explained that patient’s own stem cells are used to replace lost cartilage.
If current trials on goats are successful, a pilot clinical trial involving about 20 patients is planned.
Experts believe with further study the treatment could be in widespread use in less than five years.
Osteoarthritis, which affects more than two million people in the UK, occurs when the cartilage which acts as a protective cushion for joints becomes thin and wears out.
Current treatment is mainly confined to alleviating the pain and inflammation associated with the disease.
In some cases cartilage-producing cells called chondrocytes can be transplanted from surrounding healthy tissue into the damaged area.
However, such repairs are not highly successful because only a few new cells can be generated.
The new approach involves taking stem cells that are programmed to become chondrocytes and growing them in the laboratory until they number in their millions.
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