Lead University: Lehigh University
PI: Sabrina Jedlicka
Co-PIs: Xuanhong Cheng

Autologous stem cell transplantation is becoming a widely available treatment option for patients suffering from osteoarthritic disorders, however, the treatment is only recently being reviewed by the FDA to ensure therapeutic quality between clinics. The procedure involves stem cell extraction from bone marrow, either through the use of specialized needles designed to maximize stem cell concentration or through post-extraction concentration protocols. This solution is then re-injected back into a site of damage (knee, shoulder, ankle, etc.). Pain relief can be significant, however, patient outcomes are highly variable, which is an impediment to widespread adoption of the technique. Cytokine signaling by the injected cells is the hypothesized mechanism of pain relief, however, initial cell quality and signaling potential may be the differentiating factor between patients who respond well to the treatment and patients who have a limited therapeutic response. In this project, we propose a fundamental study comparing patient cell behavior and phenotype in a wide variety of patient extracts, to discover a correlating set of biomarkers that are indicative of favorable patient outcomes. These biomarkers will be built into a point-of-care device designed to quickly and efficiently characterize extracted stem cells to provide physicians with an early indicator of how the patient will respond. This can then be coupled with other surgical/pharmaceutical interventions to ensure patient pain relief is maximized during the recovery phase and that cells engraft and survive in the long term. In the long-term, through working collaboratively with a local orthopedic surgeon, we hope to develop a methodology and translational technology to improve cell retention and therapeutic potential post-injection.