When a newt is injured, its cells respond by aggregating and returning to a stem cell–like state—a process known as dedifferentiation. (Credit: Distant Hill Gardens/Flickr)


Arthritis treatment mimics newts to repair cartilage

Newts can regenerate lost tissue when they sever a limb, and now scientists want to mimic that capability to treat osteoarthritis.

The new technique rejuvenates cells from older adults who have osteoarthritis to repair worn or damaged cartilage and reduce pain. Using a person’s bone marrow stem cells to generate joint tissue eliminates concerns the person’s immune system will reject it.

When a newt is injured, its cells respond by aggregating and returning to a stem cell-like state—a process known as dedifferentiation. This allows the number of cells to increase and allows the newt to generate specialized cells needed to form new tissue.

People can’t do this, so researchers at the University of York recreated similar conditions in the laboratory by growing human cells as 3D aggregates.


The scientists cultivated the spheroid clusters of cells and reverted them to an embryonic state.

“Using this technique, we have shown that human cells can also be dedifferentiated to an early embryonic stage. They are then capable of generating new tissues,” says Paul Genever of the Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre at the University of York.

“The next stage is to find out more about the dedifferentiation process so that we can find the right treatment to encourage tissue repair in the damaged joint.”

The research, funded by Arthritis Research UK, is published in Nature Scientific Reports.

Source: University of York

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