"Adult stems cells are limited in what they can do, and embryonic stem cells have ethical issues," senior author Farshid Guilak of Duke University said in a statement. "What this research shows in a mouse model is the ability to create an unlimited supply of stem cells that can turn into any type of tissue -- in this case cartilage, which has no ability to regenerate by itself."
Articular cartilage is the shock absorber tissue in joints making it possible to walk, climb stairs, jump and perform daily activities without pain. But ordinary wear-and-tear or an injury can diminish its effectiveness and progress to osteoarthritis.
Because articular cartilage has a poor capacity for repair, damage and osteoarthritis are leading causes of impairment in older people and often requires joint replacement.
The researchers developed a technique to grow a continuous supply of cartilage in a dish and these stem cells might be a viable source of patient-specific articular cartilage tissue, Guilak said.
The finding were reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.