Osteoarthritis Treatment Revolution

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For those battling osteoarthritis, the standard of medical treatment has long been limited to pain management and invasive joint surgery. However, groundbreaking research led by Dr. Mildred Embree, DMD, PhD, at the Cartilage Biology and Regenerative Medicine Lab, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, aims to transform this treatment narrative. In a recent study published in Cell Stem Cell, Dr. Embree introduces StemJEL, a patented osteoarthritis drug potentially revolutionizing treatment approaches.

Unveiling StemJEL: A New Dawn in Osteoarthritis Care

Dr. Embree’s team, including postdoctoral researchers Mo Chen, Ph. and Angela Ruscitto, Ph., explores the intricacies of osteoarthritis, seeking to address the root causes rather than simply managing symptoms. StemJEL targets early-to-mid stages of the disease, aiming to protect cartilage and eliminate the need for invasive surgeries.

The Role of Sclerostin: A Key Discovery

Embree and her team focus on a growth factor, sclerostin, within the local tissue environment or cartilage cell niche. This factor proves crucial for joint formation and protection. Formulated into an injectable hydrogel therapy, StemJEL showcases its potential in improving osteoarthritis and restoring joint function, as evidenced by successful trials in rats, rabbits, and pigs.

From Lab to Market: A Promising Future

Driven by the promising study outcomes, Dr. Embree and Mo Chen co-founded WNT Scientific, LLC, a biotechnology company set to present their research to the FDA. Their goal is to initiate clinical trials and make StemJEL accessible to patients. This marks a significant leap forward in addressing an ongoing issue—currently, disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs are not available to patients. This is despite it affecting 500 million people globally.

Dr. Embree’s passion for cartilage, stemming from her postdoctoral training, finds expression in StemJEL. Unlike other musculoskeletal tissues, cartilage lacks a blood supply and circulating stem cells, making it challenging to repair. StemJEL seeks to bridge this gap, mimicking the body’s natural ability to form and protect cartilage.

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NIH/NIDCR Support: Nurturing a Promising Future

The StemJEL initiative has garnered support from the National Institute Of Health/National Institute Of Dental and Craniofacial Research. This backing accelerates the journey from research to market, signaling the potential for StemJEL to become a transformative solution for osteoarthritis patients.

Dentistry’s Role: Beyond the Jaws

While StemJEL primarily addresses osteoarthritis but its implications extend beyond medical joint care, particularly into dental health. Dr. Mildred Embree’s profound understanding of cartilage, including its challenges in repair due to the lack of blood supply and circulating stem cells, has broader applications, especially in dentistry.

  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Insights:

Dr. Embree’s expertise in studying the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) adds a unique dimension to StemJEL’s potential impact. The TMJ, responsible for jaw movement and function, often faces challenges similar to other joints. StemJEL’s ability to protect cartilage cells and improve joint function aligns with the intricate dynamics of the TMJ, presenting a novel avenue for dental health.

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the most frequently used joint in the body. It is a complex joint system critical for dental occlusion, chewing, and speech. The TMJ comprises a network of muscles, ligaments, and a fibrocartilaginous disc and condyle. TMJ osteoarthritis is debilitating and compromises quality of life for many patients. The symptoms of TMJ OA are pain and low-grade inflammation, restricted jaw movements, jaw growth defects, and facial asymmetry. TMJ diseases afflict over 10 million Americans at an annual cost of ~$4 billion.

Current treatments for TMJ Osteoarthritis are typically involve either pain management or invasive surgeries, including total joint replacements with high failure rates. Exploiting the regenerative capabilities of stem cells to repair TMJ tissues represents a minimally invasive stem cell-based treatment for TMJ OA. StemJEL could be the first FDA-approved medication for minimally-invasive TMJ cartilage regenerative therapy.

  • Cartilage Restoration in Oral Structures:

The challenges of cartilage repair are not exclusive to joints; they also resonate within oral structures. StemJEL’s innovative approach to mimic the body’s natural ability to form and protect cartilage becomes particularly relevant in oral contexts. This could hold promise for conditions affecting oral cartilage, contributing to potential advancements in restorative dentistry.

Considering the role of cartilage in supporting and cushioning joints, StemJEL might offer insights into periodontal health. While distinct from joint-related cartilage, the principles of cellular protection and regeneration embedded in StemJEL could have implications for maintaining the health of supporting structures around teeth.

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  • Beyond Symptom Management:

Traditional dental care often involves managing symptoms and addressing issues reactively. StemJEL introduces a paradigm shift by aiming to address the root causes of joint and potentially oral health concerns. Its focus on protecting and regenerating cartilage cells opens avenues for proactive approaches to maintaining oral health.

  • Collaborative Research Opportunities:

The intersection of orthopedics and dentistry is an emerging field where collaborative research can lead to groundbreaking discoveries. StemJEL’s origin in the College of Dental Medicine at Columbia University exemplifies the potential for collaboration between dental and orthopedic experts, fostering interdisciplinary approaches to patient care.

  • Personalized Dental Care:

As StemJEL progresses from research to potential clinical applications, it may pave the way for personalized dental care approaches. Understanding individual variations in cartilage health, especially in the context of the TMJ and other oral structures, can contribute to tailoring dental treatments for better treatment outcomes.

StemJEL not only signifies a revolutionary advancement in osteoarthritis treatment and opens doors to redefining how we approach dental health. Dr. Embree’s pioneering work exemplifies the interconnectedness of musculoskeletal health, showcasing the potential for StemJEL to influence the landscape of joint and dental care.


As we stand on the cusp of a new era in osteoarthritis treatment, StemJEL emerges as a beacon of hope. Dr. Mildred Embree’s dedication to cartilage research has paved the way for a revolutionary approach that holds promise for millions affected by this debilitating condition. StemJEL is not merely a medication; it is a testament to the relentless pursuit of innovative solutions in medicine and dentistry.

About Marielaina Perrone, DDS

Cosmetic Dentist Marielaina Perrone DDS

Dr. Marielaina Perrone is a highly respected and experienced dentist in Henderson, Nevada, with over two decades of expertise in providing quality dental care to her patients. She graduated from Stony Brook University School Of Dental Medicine and has completed advanced training in cosmetic dentistry, implant dentistry, and orthodontics.

Dr. Perrone takes a patient-centered approach and believes in personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs and preferences. Her gentle and compassionate demeanor creates a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere for patients during their dental appointments.

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