Light at the end of the tunnel for arthritis sufferers

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There is at last a light at the end of the tunnel for Arthritis sufferers.

The disease which can cause severe pain, leaves many incapacitated with a reduced quality of life.

Osteoarthritis is a form of rheumatic disease, and it affects as many 2 million people in the UK alone.

But now British scientists say they have made a significant step towards finding a new treatment for osteoarthritis, a disease that can leave people unable to walk.

Apparently researchers at Bristol University have successfully grown new cartilage from a patient's own stem cells and are hopeful that the technique will allow them to eventually carry out transplants.

But they do warn it could take over a decade to perfect the technique.

The scientists grew a piece of cartilage using stem cells, which are self-renewing and have the ability to grow into blood, bones or organs.

The cells were taken from the bone marrow of people undergoing hip replacement operations because of the disease.

They were then placed in a solution to help them develop and then grown into a scaffold made up of polyglycolic acid, which is the same material used to make dissolvable, surgical stitches.

Once the cartilage is transplanted, the scaffold should melt away.

Because the patient's own cells are used to create the cartilage, the new technique is expected to surmount problems of transplant rejection, as well as avoiding the ethical concerns over using human embryos.

Many experts are encouraged by the success but see it as a milestone rather than a breakthrough.

Although there is no single cause of osteoarthritis, several factors increase the likelihood of getting it, including being over 40, female, overweight or having an existing injury to a joint.

Osteoarthritis means that the smooth cartilage that takes the strain in a normal joint becomes rough, brittle and weak and in order to compensate, the bone beneath it thickens and spreads out, forming knobbly outgrowths.

The membrane surrounding the joint also thickens and the fluid-filled space within it becomes smaller.

As the disease progresses bits of cartilage may break away from the bone, causing the bone ends to rub together and the ligaments to become strained.

This causes a great deal of pain and changes the shape of the joint.

Osteoarthritis is most common in the hands, knees, hips and feet but some people also develop it in the back and neck.

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