DISEASE-A-WEEK CHALLENGE #4: The California Stem Cell Program versus Arthritis


In the 1966 movie-so-bad-it-might-be-fun, 1966 BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA, there is a scene that made me cringe, and not for the reasons the film-makers intended.

As Dracula, John Carradine lurched toward whomever he was menacing– but the camera focused on the actor’s poor hands.

Arthritis. The swollen-knuckled joints were unmistakable.

The rest of the movie I found myself worrying for him, scared he might bump into something, or that somebody might shake his hand, and squeeze too hard.

Arthritis may not sound like much: perhaps because it is so common, affecting more than 20 million people in America alone. But the pain can be excruciating: it would be classified as torture, if done deliberately.

My wife Gloria and I have the condition in our knees.

For me, it’s a minor inconvenience: my six-year-old grand-daughter can outrun me; plus getting up from the floor is like a camel rising, rear end first, one awkward joint at a time.

But Gloria suffers. Stairs are the worst. Our bedroom is on the second floor, and she tries to only use the stairs twice a day: down in the morning, back up at night.

Think what is happening inside her knee: where thigh bone and shin bone meet. Between the bones is (or should be) a spongy cushion of cartilage. If it is thick and healthy, all goes well.

But take away that cushion, either from wear-and-tear of age or ripping injury? No shock absorber. Now it is bone on bone as the weight presses down, and gravity grinds the joint at every step.

Surgery can rebuild the knee structure with metal and ceramic implants. Sometimes the operation goes well, and the patient recovers a degree of mobility. But still it is a foreign object in the —> Read More