AN ongoing clinical trial in Sydney and Hobart is exploring the effectiveness of stem cells in treating chronic pain.
The trial is already underway, but leading health experts David Hunter and Ross Macdonald are still looking for volunteers who are suffering from mild to moderate osteoarthritis (OA).
It seeks to explore whether mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can improve symptoms and slow disease progression when injected directly into the knee.
Half of the volunteers will receive three stem cell injections into the knees over the course of 52 weeks.
The remaining 50 percent will receive injections of a placebo.
Professor Hunter said current OA treatments focused on pain alleviation rather than treating the disease itself.
"Stem cells are already widely used and people are spending considerable amount of money on treatments which haven't been proven to work," he said.
"Through this trial, we're checking there's merit in their use in osteoarthritis."
"This is the largest randomised controlled trial of MSCs conducted in patients with osteoarthritis worldwide and we anticipate that it will be an enormously influential trial..."
Professor Hunter said the trial aimed to provide patients with information to help them make informed choices.
Participants will also be asked to attend seven study visits and complete a number of online surveys over the course of two years.
To be eligible for the trial participants should:
- Be living in the Sydney or Hobart areas.
- Be aged 40 years or older, living in Australia and have a Medicare number.
- Have knee OA and moderate pain, as assessed by the visual analogue pain intensity scale.
- Have internet access and an active email account.
- Be willing to stop or maintain OA treatments for the duration of the study.
- Be willing to stop or minimise the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and other analgesics, except for paracetamol, for the duration of the study (including stopping all pain medications for one week before each assessment.)
- Be able to speak and read English well enough to complete activities.
- Be willing and able to travel to and from physical visits.
The clinical trial is being sponsored by the University of Sydney and funded by the federal government's National Health and Medical Research Council and participating institutions.
Professor Hunter is the Florance and Cope Chair of Rheumatology and Professor of Medicine at University of Sydney and the Royal North Shore Hospital.
Dr Macdonald is the managing director and chief executive of pharmaceutical and biotechnology business Cynata Therapeutics.