A University of Connecticut scientist researches how stem cells can help patients suffering from osteoarthritis. (NBC)
FARMINGTON, CT (NBC) - David Bauman is still walking with a cane.
He had one knee replaced in January, and a total hip replacement in October.
"The pain involved is really considerable," Bauman said.
The answer to his and so many others long and painful recovery may lie in the University of Connecticut Health Center laboratory.
The breakdown of cartilage is what causes debilitating osteoarthritis, which 21 million Americans suffer from.
"The joint cartilage that helps people move when they walk and move around, that cartilage wears down over time and it doesn't repair itself," scientist Caroline Dealy said.
Dealy is a University of Connecticut associate professor who is researching the use of human embryonic stem cells to make new cartilage.
"One of the reasons (stem cells) are so exciting is because they have the potential to form any tissue in the whole body, but the trick with that is telling the cells exactly what to do," Dealy said.
Scientists have cracked a so-called "instruction list," which would tell stem cells to become cartilage.
Dealy said the next step is to test it in an animal model with osteoarthritis.
Studies are getting started with a grant from the Connecticut Stem Cell Program.