By Jovahn Rabassa

Special to the Live Wire

The ability of stem cells to adapt to many needs is amazing, according to Dr. Jay D. Gibson, who discussed  cell-based therapies and how they can be used to treat cartilage defects during a talk at Manchester Community College last month.

Gibson is a part of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Connecticut Health Center and also works at the New England Musculoskeletal Institute. He also teaches human biology at MCC.

More than 30 people attended the event, which was opened with an introduction by Pamela G. McManus, who teaches general biology. She said she wanted Gibson’s talk to be the first in a series of science lectures at the school.

Gibson started his presentation with a quote from inventor Thomas Edison, who said “I have not failed, I have simply found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

That sentiment was a running theme throughout Gibson’s talk as he described his 10 years of experience researching and working on embryonic stem cells. Gibson described embryonic stem cells as cells that want to become something else.

The process of making embryotic stem cells. Courtesy of

The process of making embryotic stem cells. Courtesy of

He said he has high hopes for their applications in the future, including cartilage repair. Gibson described how stem cell research has had huge success with diabetes and heart failure. He also briefly addressed certain controversies concerning the use of embryonic stem cells by stating that all stem cells were voluntarily given and therefore should be free to use.

Repairing cartilage is a major problem, said Gibson. Since adult articular cartilage does not heal properly, even minor injuries can lead to progressive damage and significant pain and disability. He advised anyone with constant knee or joint pain, no matter how small, to get it checked immediately before it was too late.

“The knee acts as a hinge with cartilage that supports and keeps bones from hitting another and supports weight,” he said. “Eventually it gets broken down due to excessive wear. While there are some treatments like surgery or joint replacements, they all have various flaws.”

Gibson said he hopes that his and his team’s research into stem cells and how they can be used as cartilage regeneration can change that and offer a permanent solution, with time and patience.

Gibson said the team’s research could be published early next year and their work is being presented at the Orthopedic Research Society’s annual conference next year in Las Vegas.