This is a good example of first generation cell therapies that have been available via medical tourism for quite some time, with enough information available for patients to make an informed decision about use, but are only now working their way through the regulatory system in the US:
Osteoarthritis (OA), a debilitating and painful degenerative disease, strikes an estimated 14 percent of adults 25 years of age and older, a third of adults age 65 and older in the U.S. alone. Those who suffer from OA may one day have a new and effective cell therapy, thanks to a team of Czech researchers who studied the effectiveness of using an OA patient's own adipose (fat) cells in a unique transplant therapy aimed at reducing the symptoms of this prevalent and difficult to treat condition as well as healing some of the damage caused by OA. The study, carried out with 1,114 OA volunteer patients who received autologous (self-donated) fat cell transplants saw their symptoms improved by the therapy.
"Adipose-derived cells have potential application in a wide range of clinical disorders, including myocardial infarction, stroke, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, and breast augmentation and reconstruction. In this study we evaluated the safety and efficacy of freshly isolated autologous stromal vascular fraction cells (SVF cells). We hypothesized that the SVF cell treatment might contribute to cartilage healing." The study followed and evaluated 1,114 patients (median age 62, range 19-94 years; 52.8% male) treated with a single dose of SVF cells isolated from lipoaspirate. Patients were followed for between 12 and 54 months with a median of 17.2 months of follow-up. Their evaluations were based on pain, non-steroid analgesic usage, limping, extent of joint movement and stiffness before treatment and at three, six, and 12 months. Hip and knee joints were the most common joints treated and some patients had more than one joint treated.
"No serious side effects, systemic infection or cancer was associated with SVF cell therapy," reported the researchers. "Most patients improved gradually three to 12 months after treatment." The evaluations demonstrated that at least a 75 percent score improvement was noticed in 63 percent of the patients and at least a 50 percent score improvement was documented in 91 percent of the patients after 12 months. Typically patients in the study consumed large amounts of painkillers for their symptoms. Researchers found that painkiller usage declined dramatically after treatment.