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YOUR HEALTH: Knee relief can be found in the womb

It's a revolutionary injection that's making people rethink joint treatment

CHICAGO — About 54 million Americans suffer from the aches and pains of arthritis.

Treatments range from pain medications to injections to surgery.

None of it seemed to work for 77-year-old Marty Ciesielczyk.

And it jeopardized something he loved: jogging.

"For me, it's just enjoyable, and if you're not a runner, then you would have no idea what I'm talking about."

But Marty's active lifestyle was in jeopardy when knee pain took over.

"When you got to lay on the floor to get dressed, it's tough."

Marty had arthritis

It happens when there's a loss of cartilage in the joint.

"It's like a tire, and as you slowly lose rubber on the tire, it wears away," explained Dr. Adam Yanke, a surgeon with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University.

"You might need to have the tire replaced at some point."

Marty's arthritis was too advanced for a scope procedure but not bad enough for a joint replacement. 

So he enrolled in a study testing whether amniotic fluid, which surrounds a growing baby in the uterus, could help his pain.

"Amniotic products come from patients that are having healthy, elective C-sections, and they choose to donate these products at the time of the delivery," said Dr. Yanke.

The fluid is injected directly into the knee

It's thought to increase tissue healing and lower inflammation. 

Doctor-diagnosed arthritis is more common in women than in men.    Arthritis and other joint disorders are among the five most costly conditions among adults 18 and older.

Your bone marrow makes mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs. They are known to grow into new tissues, including cartilage. 

By gathering these cells and injecting them into the knee joint, the hope is that they will give growth to new cartilage and reduce inflammation.

Marty received a placebo during the study, but then chose to have the amniotic fluid when the study ended.

"I mean I didn't care if it was Pixie dust, as long as my knee was going to feel better."

He went from not being able to get dressed to jogging about a week after having the injection.

"This morning, I ran three, three miles, and I had no problem at all."

Amniotic fluid is also being used to treat ulcers in the eye. 

Rush University will be enrolling patients for a larger follow-up study on amniotic fluid for joint pain in the future.

Clinical trials are still going on and most studies are still early. 

A review published in 2016 in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders concluded that MSC-based therapies offer an "exciting possibility" for treatment, but further studies need to be done on how they can best be used and how well they work. 

They are also known to be very expensive.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.