Theracell has developed an autologous injectable product (Cartil-S) that helps delay, or even stop the progression of arthritis. Cartil-S, is an autologous treatment that makes use of the patients own Stem Cells and their immunosuppressive properties. It is indicated for cartilage defects of degenerative origin.
The treatment with Cartil-S involves the collection of a small biopsy of adipose tissue (fat), the isolation of stem cells and their expansion. These stem cells are “primed” (activated) so that they start their differentiation into chondroblasts. These “primed” stem cells are then given to the doctor who will inject them into the defective joint.
- Collection of a small amount of adipose tissue. To completely eliminate the need for hospitalization, we have developed a novel, proprietary minimally invasive methodology for the isolation of stem cells from adipose tissue: a small punch biopsy (5mm) is collected from the abdominal area of the patient.
- Proliferation of the cells: The stem cells are expanded for approximately 3-5 weeks to obtain an adequate amount of cells.
- Rejuvenation and priming of stem cells: During the expansion of stem cells, we use a special, internally developed technology, to enrich the final cell preparation with cells that contain healthier (longer) telomeres. The application of this methodology leads to a final cell population that is composed mainly of younger and therefore more potent stem cells. Additionally, through the use of this technology, the stem cells are activated (“primed”), so that they possess an enhanced chondrogenic potential (they have an improved ability to regenerate cartilage tissue).
- Injection: After the cells have been grown, they are tested by our lab scientists for their quality and they are then sent to the doctor for simple injection into the precise area of injury.
Typical culture of Synovial Fluid Stem Cells (SFSCs) under the microscope
Mechanism of action:
It has been shown that stem cells may be able to help with joint pain and increase function in patients with severe arthritis. The following steps describe in detail what happens in a degenerating joint, before and after the injection of stem cells:
- In a degenerating joint with severe arthritis, the lining of the joint (called the synovial lining) becomes thickened with macrophages. These cells destroy the cellular debris and help clean up the garbage in the joint.
- The problem with arthritis is that the cartilage breakdown products activate the macrophages in the synovial lining of the joint and that these activated macrophages in turn start breaking down more cartilage.
- The stem cells that have been injected into the defective area, detect and then bind and deactivate the macrophages, preventing their ability to further destroy the joint.
- At the same time, the stem cells produce variety of proteins (mainly “helper” growth factors), that activate the body’s internal ability for regeneration, promoting this way tissue repair. This mode of action is referred to as paracraine effect of stem cells.
- Finally, part of the injected cells will be differentiated into cartilage, completing this way a cascade of events that take place into the osteoarthritic joint.
The inactivation of the macrophages and the secretion of “helper” growth factors explains the long-term anti-inflammatory effect seen with stem cells. This mechanism of action shows how stem cells may decrease pain and swelling. The above model also suggests that stem cells have a disease modifying effect, by restoring the balance of cells within the joint: there is an increase in the number of “facilitating” stem cells and a decrease in the number of “destructive” macrophages, reducing this way the self-destruction of the joint.