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The European Orthopaedic Research Society (EORS) 2018 Meeting, PART 2, Galway, Ireland, September 2018.


Osteoarthritis (OA) of the spine and diarthrodial joints is by far the most common cause of chronic disability in people over 50 years of age. The disease has a striking impact on quality of life and represents an enormous societal and economic cost, a burden that will increase greatly as populations age. OA is a complex condition with broad pathology. Damage to the articular cartilage is a consistent feature, accompanied by changes to the subchondral bone and synovium. Progression of the disease involves further degeneration of the articular cartilage, damage to the underlying bone and morphological changes that include subchondral bone thickening, development of cysts, osteophytes and inflammation of the synovium. Enhanced production of proinflammatory cytokines and matrix metalloproteinases accelerates degradation of the articular cartilage. It is striking that no approved pharmacological intervention, biological therapy or procedure prevents the progressive destruction of the OA joint. All current treatments, without exception, produce symptomatic rather than regenerative results. While there have been some exciting developments in the search for OA treatments in the last decade, including matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors, anti-TNF and anti-IL1 drugs for example, none of these has to date emerged as an effective medicinal product. There is thus an urgent and compelling need to identify, validate and test new biological therapeutics. Stromal cell therapy represents one such compelling approach. The results from several early clinical studies have indicated that this approach holds a great deal of promise for the treatment of OA. Most studies have involved direct intraarticular injection of a suspension of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) for treatment of knee OA. Results from a number of controlled patient studies have suggested that this treatment results in an effective repair response. Although data regarding mechanism of action are limited, it appears that the cells have an anti-inflammatory effect, possibly targeting cells within the synovium, rather than a direct cartilage repair effect. Several recent reports have highlighted a dramatic and sustained response in patients receiving MSC treatment. For example, allogeneic expanded adipose-derived MSCs have been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of complex perianal fistulas in Crohn's disease. Also, allogeneic bone marrow-derived MSCs has a been shown to have a positive effect in pediatric acute graft versus host disease. These observations point to a mechanism of action that involves host immunomodulation, but this needs further examination. Within the field of musculoskeletal disease effective translation of MSC technology has been hindered by a lack of randomized controlled patient studies, severe inconsistencies regarding the preparation and characterization of the cell product, and an incomplete understanding of the therapeutic mechanism. Direct to consumer clinics have flourished in some countries, providing cell treatments to OA patients. Most or all of these utilize unexpanded cell fractions from marrow or fat without even rudimentary product characterization and may report an exaggerated clinical outcome. Data from these clinics is not likely to yield information that will be useful. In fact, a recent systemic review of clinical trials involving MSC treatment in OA indicated that only a limited number of studies provided high quality evidence and long term follow up. Many suffered from a lack of consistency, including a diversity of methods for MSC preparation, and thus did not contribute to a supporting evidence base. There is a compelling need to provide clear and unambiguous clinical proof of concept relating to MSC treatment for OA. The ADIPOA2 study, currently active in Europe, will go some way towards achieving this. This is a 150 patient, phase 2b study designed to to assess the efficacy of a single injection of autologous adipose-derived MSCs in the treatment of mild to moderate OA of the knee, active and unresponsive to conservative therapy for at least 12 months.