A new stem cell technique could reduce the need for surgery among osteoarthritis patients, scientists believe.

In a first trial on human tissue, scientists at the University of Edinburgh are testing the capabilities of patients’ own cells to repair damaged joint tissue. Previous trials have studied animal tissue, but researchers are examining the effects of stem cell treatment on discarded hip fragments donated by patients undergoing routine surgery.

The model will be used to develop ways to introduce a patient’s stem cells – unique cells that are able to transform into any other type of cell – into damaged joints. The team said the stem cells could then transform into cartilage cells, replacing injured tissue.

If successful, the technique could pave the way for treatments that would reduce the need for people having to have invasive surgery.

Osteoarthritis damages the tissue between bones known as articular cartilage, leading to joint pain, swelling and disability.

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