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Current Research Initiatives

There are several approaches that the team is well positioned to develop by nature of their multidisciplinary knowledge. Due to a decrease in extramural funding opportunities and more competition for government funding, private philanthropy is necessary to support studies that develop treatment protocols in the following areas:

Plasma Studies

Avoiding invasive surgery and transplantation altogether, there is an opportunity to explore the use of the patient's own plasma and platelets to generate new cartilage growth or reduce the inflamation and pain associated with arthritis in a damaged joints. By taking a patient's blood, separating the plasma and platelets and injecting them into the site of the injury, the idea is that the condition of the joint can be improved without invassive surgery. Research would focus on developing tools to monitor the effectiveness of this approach - for example, a pain scale, and the identification of specific biomarkers in synovial fluid - in order to create the optimum protocol. Clinical studies in this area are currently being developed to harness information learned from our laboratories. These studies will require signficant funding to conduct over the next 3 years.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Clinical Trial

Can Platelet-Rich Plasma Ease the Pain of Osteoarthritis?

CHICAGO—For years, doctors have used platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, to promote healing after surgery. Now, Rush University Medical Center is studying whether PRP can help relieve knee pain in patients with mild to moderate osteoarthritis. PRP contains growth factors that promote cell proliferation and is prepared from the patient's own blood tissue. It has received popular attention because of its use in treating sports injuries in professional athletes, but the jury is still out on whether it is effective.

"There have been few controlled clinical trials, and results are inconsistent, but data so far suggests that it could be a promising treatment for healing in a variety of tissues," said Dr. Brian Cole, orthopaedic surgeon and head of the Cartilage Restoration Center at Rush. "The therapy will not be a cure for osteoarthritis, but it could help put off the day when a patient will need to get a knee implant." At present, the standard of care is either corticosteroid injections, which may last about three months, or synthetic lubricants containing hyaluronic acid, which can last for up to a year.

In the double-blind, randomized, controlled study, 100 patients will receive either hyaluronic acid or PRP. The PRP is prepared from 10 millimeters of the patient's own blood. The blood is spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the red and white blood cells. The platelets are then injected into the knee joint using ultrasound imaging to guide placement.

Patients will receive three injections over three weeks, and will be monitored for two years receiving a clinical exam to assess pain and knee function. In addition, a teaspoon-size sample will be taken of the synovial fluid around the knee joint to test for molecular changes that may indicate a shift in the balance of anabolic factors that increase the buildup of tissue and catabolic factors that break it down. An imbalance in these factors has been implicated in the deterioration that leads to osteoarthritis.

For additional information, please contact the study's research coordinator Vasil Karas (312.432.2380 or email or Dr. Brain Cole at

Stem Cells

Manipulating stem cells from a patient's bone marrow near the site of the defect in order to encourage cartilage growth and regeneration is another approach that could potentially be used to avoid surgical intervention. Similarly, there is a significant need for funds to further the basic science investigations of this discipline.

With your support, studies in these areas could be launched immediately with preliminary conclusions drawn in 12 to 18 months.

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Chicago, Illinois 60612
Phone: 312-942-6567