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Stem Cell Can Help

Arthritis Fact

CIRM funds several research projects investigating ways to repair cartilage damage that can lead to osteoarthritis as well as repair the damage from osteoarthritis after it occurs.


According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than 50 million Americans have some form of arthritis. More than 30 million of these people have osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis that specifically causes the breakdown of cartilage tissue in the joints. It does not just strike the elderly; 14 percent of people over 25 have the degenerative joint disease. That rises to 33 percent for those over 65 with the end stage disease resulting in a million joint replacement surgeries each year. In a more rare condition, young people have cartilage damage caused by underlying bone defects that if left untreated are a major cause of early-onset osteoarthritis.

CIRM is funding several approaches aiming to stop or reverse OA. One team found a drug that recruits mesenchymal stem cells naturally found in our joints to the site of injury where they develop into new cartilage tissue (see clinical program below). Other groups are looking for ways to generate new cartilage from stem cells grown in the lab along with various forms of scaffold to help give the cells the desired shape and structure. Teams are using both adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells as a starting point for creating the cartilage.

Clinical Stage Programs

California Institute for Biomedical Research

Researchers at the California Institute for Biomedical Research (CALIBR) have been awarded $8.447 million to test KA34, a drug that, in preclinical tests, recruits stem cells to create new cartilage in areas damaged by osteoarthritis. CIRM funded the research that developed this technology and now this Phase 1 trial will test this stem cell directed treatment in people with osteoarthritis of the knee, hopefully slowing down or even halting the progression of the disease. 

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