Worn-out knees and ankle joints could soon be treated with an injection of a patient’s own belly fat.

One trial that involved 120 people is investigating whether one single injection of cells from the abdominal fat could reduce osteoarthritis pain and stiffness.

While it might seem an unlikely option, body fat (known as adipose tissue) is rich in stem cells, ‘master cells’ capable of turning into different types of tissue.

They could become the cartilage-repairing cells.

A trial involving 120 patients is looking at whether a single jab of cells extracted from abdominal fat can ease the pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis

One trial with 120 participants is investigating whether one single injection of cells from the abdominal fat could ease osteoarthritis pain and stiffness.

Although this approach was subject to research in the past, it remains controversial. Private clinics offer it despite limited evidence. 

More clinical studies like the one in this case are required to prove it works, according to Doctors.

Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage, the hard, flexible material that protects our joints from the stress of movement, begins to wear away.

It affects more than ten million Britons and, while the exact cause isn’t known, age, injuries and obesity (which puts extra pressure on joints) increase the risk. It can cause stiffness and pain, which can lead to difficulty in daily activities, and may also fuel depression and other problems.

There are many treatment options available, including painkillers and steroid injections.

But while these ease the pain and stiffness, most remedies don’t treat the underlying damage. Over 90% of 100,000 knee replacements done annually on the NHS are due to osteoarthritis.

This approach has been subject to previous research but is controversial, with some private clinics already offering the therapy, despite little evidence it is effective. A file image is used above

While this method has been studied in previous studies, some clinics have begun to offer the treatment, even though there is not much evidence that it works. Above is a file image

Over the last decade, scientists have looked into ways to treat the symptoms with injections of mesenchymal stem cells. These stem cells are particularly abundant in adipose tissue (or body fat), which is located under the skin.

Under local anaesthesia, the procedure involves removing fat from your abdomen by liposuction.

It is then washed and removed any remaining impurities such as blood. After cleaning, stem cells as well as any remaining cells can be injected into the joint. This entire process takes only 60 minutes.

According to some, stem cells transform into cells called “chondroblasts” which then mature into chondrocytes. The major components of cartilage tissue are chondrocytes and chondroblasts.

As well as knee arthritis, studies have suggested the belly fat jab also improves the symptoms of ankle arthritis — and researchers say it could be used on other joints such as the shoulder and wrist.

Hvidovre University Hospital is conducting a trial in Denmark. 120 people with knee arthritis will receive the injections or jabs. Levels of stiffness and pain over the year will be measured.

Mike McNicholas, a consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon and knee specialist at Liverpool University Hospitals, says: ‘I have no doubt that there may be merit in the use of some form of stem cells in the treatment of this debilitating condition.

‘But unfortunately, some private units in the UK are already offering the treatment under investigation in this trial, with some very serious consequences for patients suffering risks without proven benefit from the treatment for which they are paying very high prices.

‘It is my firm belief that any such treatments being offered should be done as part of a robust research trial such as this.

‘Innovation is great, but it needs to be introduced responsibly.’

According to Clinical Rheumatology, coffee consumption may raise the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis among men. While the risk for men who drink less than two cups of coffee per day increased by 13%, those who consumed seven or more cups of coffee were 3.8 times more likely develop arthritis. The risk was not higher in women. The cause of the link remains unclear. However, the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain conducted a 2020 study and found evidence that the caffeine could have an impact on the joint cartilage. 

Case notes from History

Older medical methods still have relevance today. This week: Checking your pulse

Although ancient Egyptians believed that veins and heart were interconnected, they didn’t realize that blood flows around the entire body through the heart.

Writing found on nine medical papyri suggests that, while they didn’t know what the pulse was, they knew it signified the state of someone’s health.

‘We now know that the pulse is caused by the expanding of your arteries owing to the force of the blood pumping through them,’ says Regina Giblin, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. ‘It tells us how often your heart is beating.

‘Most adults have a pulse of between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but that can go up when you are sick.’

Because your body expands blood vessels, this allows white blood cells faster access to infection sites.  

MooGoo Baby & Child Soothing Moisturiser Nut Oil-Free

MooGoo Baby & Child Soothing Moisturiser Nut Oil-Free

This is what you can do

Made without nut oils, this contains evening primrose oil and olive squalane, which the maker says are high in fatty acids the skin needs (MooGoo Baby & Child Soothing Moisturiser Nut Oil-Free, 120g, £12, moogooskincare.co.uk). 

You can eat whatever you like to improve your mood

This week: Get positive with green and orange fruit

A Harvard School of Public Health in the U.S. found that people who eat lots of vegetables and fruits, especially dark green or orange, tend to be more optimistic.

Andrew Oswald (Warwick University professor of economics and behavioral science) says there are many possible explanations.

‘There is a negative effect on well-being from folate deficiency. Folate is a vitamin B that’s found in leafy green vegetables. The more folate you consume, the happier you will feel.

‘The micro-organisms of the gut might also be involved in mood and these feed on plant materials. And some vegetables, particularly peas, contain lithium, a substance used to treat mood disorders.’

According to Professor Oswald’s 2016 study, people who reduced their intake of fruits and vegetables to just eight per day experienced an increase in happiness that was comparable to someone who had been unemployed finding a job.