Cell therapy

Stem cell treatment

Can cell therapy improve OA?

Many cell therapies for arthritis – those that use a patient’s own cells – are still experimental and are being evaluated in regulated clinical trials. However, there are some for-profit clinics which offer cell or even ‘stem cell’ treatments for osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases. These are not approved by Health Canada, which considers all ‘stem cell’ treatments as drugs and requires them to be proven in clinical trials. 

Health Canada does not allow clinics and providers in Canada to offer cell therapy 

You may be familiar with ‘stem cells’, which can renew themselves and mature into specialized cells like cartilage, heart or brain cells. This allows them to multiply and repair damage. However, hype about stem cell therapy has led some people to pay thousands of dollars on treatments that promise to cure ailments from arthritis to Parkinson’s disease. These treatments often do not help and may even harm patients. 

The Arthritis Society supports research on cell therapy and ‘stem cells’, which are studied under regulated clinical trials. Cell therapy research (which can include but is not limited to stem cells) offers the promise for a person’s own cells to potentially be used to repair or replace cells damaged by disease or injury or reduce inflammation and pain. With further research, this may have the potential to reverse the damage of arthritis and avoid the need for joint replacement surgery. Cell therapy research is increasingly becoming more common and sophisticated, which may lead to more effective tissue repair and regeneration techniques for arthritis and other conditions in the future.

The Arthritis Society funds research on cell therapy in arthritis to further our understanding of the short- and long-term effectiveness and safety of these treatments in managing or preventing conditions like arthritis. If you are interested in cell therapy, the best course of action is to speak with your physician, as these treatments need to be evaluated for safety and effectiveness in clinical trials approved by Health Canada.

Learn more about cell therapy at these links:

This information was reviewed in August 2020 with expert advice from:

Dr. Sowmya Viswanathan, PhD
Scientist, Krembil Research Institute