News August 2003 Issue

In the News: 08/03

Stem Cell Technology Now Available For Bone Repair
Cellect, a kit that allows surgeons to harvest stem cells from a patient’s bone marrow and grow new bone for grafting, has been introduced by Cleveland Clinic orthopaedic surgeon Dr. George Muschler. It’s the first stem cell technology to be commercially developed and the first technology to be introduced for bone repair. The process, in which bone fibers and chips are used to control the rate of new bone growth, permits the isolation of stem cells from other materials removed from a patient’s bone marrow. Dr. Muschler claims the process not only makes more efficient use of existing bone marrow, but it improves the effectiveness of the graft. The procedure reportedly is less painful than traditional methods of harvesting bone marrow and—since it uses a patient’s own stem cells—is also less expensive. Cellect is marketed by DePuy AcroMed.

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Big At Birth? You May Later Be A Candidate For RA
If you were an overly chubby newborn (8.8 pounds or more), were not breast-fed after delivery, and your father was a manual laborer, you may be at risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life. That, at least, is the conclusion of a recent Swedish study that tracked the birth records of 77 RA patients, in which a positive association was found between those three factors and the later development of RA. Dr. Lennart Jacobsson of Sweden’s Malmo University, working with U.S. epidemiologist Dr. William Knowler, speculated that factors relating to the period shortly before and after birth may influence the development of the immune system in such a way that effects are seen later in life—the patients in Dr. Jacobson’s study developed RA, on average, at 46 years of age. Although the association of breast-feeding and father’s occupation could not be explained, Dr. Jacobsson claimed his group had made several observations in other populations that support his conclusions.

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Arthritis Sufferers Expected To Double In 25 Years
The good news: We’re living longer. The bad news: The number of older Americans suffering from arthritis is expected to nearly double in approximately 25 years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that 41.1 million people age 65 and older will suffer from arthritis or chronic joint symptoms by 2030. The trend, say CDC officials, primarily reflects the aging of the U.S. population. Dr. Chad Helmick, a CDC arthritis expert, noted that an increase in obesity and physical inactivity among Americans is largely responsible for the growing arthritis problem. Health experts agree that a combination of proper diet, weight control, exercise, and regular medical treatment are the most effective components in controlling the disease.

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Exercise Vital To Combat Rheumatic Disease
Cachexia, the loss of both lean tissue and fat experienced by people with diseases such as AIDS or advanced cancer, is also one of the effects of chronic inflammation on the body. And that, according to Dr. Ronenn Roubenoff of Tufts University, is something many physicians are unaware of. Although cachexia leads to loss of lean body mass, exercise—in any form—can help counteract the problem, reversing many of the effects of chronic inflammation on muscle. Jointandbone.org, a website for health-care professionals, quoted Dr. Roubenoff as saying, “A combined approach using both strength training and aerobic exercise is likely to be optimal, and can be accomplished by most people in less than one hour a day.” He added that swimming, bicycling and walking are the best kinds of aerobic exercise for RA patients. “Even those who are relatively unfit and sedentary,” claims Dr. Roubenoff, “can undertake strength training, which is best achieved using weight machines but can also be done using simple wrist and ankle weights.” As for those who argue that they can’t exercise because of their pain, Dr. Roumanoff says, “Inactivity really worsens pain over time. Once you get started [with exercise], the pain reduces.”