Arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability, exacting a staggering toll in human suffering as well as on our national economy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), forty-six million Americans were afflicted with arthritis in 2003, and $128 billion were expended on battling the effects of the disease nationwide, over twelve billion dollars in California alone. Eight million Americans are predicted to be diagnosed with some form of arthritis within the next decade and overall, arthritis prevalence is predicted to further increase substantially – from forty-six to sixty-seven million Americans in the year 2030, with more than a million new people affected in California.

Despite medicine’s best efforts to the contrary, over nineteen million patients suffer arthritis-attributable activity limitations and over one million partial or total joint replacements are performed annually in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). This clearly is a silent yet devastating national epidemic.

The Shiley Center for Orthopaedic Research and Education at Scripps Clinic (SCORE) is one of the nation’s leading private, non-profit institutions dedicated to improving the quality of life for arthritis sufferers everywhere. Here, motivated scientists and clinicians collaborate in cutting-edge research aimed at devising innovative treatment strategies to intervene at any point of the arthritis spectrum - encompassing prevention through patient education and early diagnostics as well as therapies ranging from novel disease modifying interventions to optimizing the performance of traditional joint replacements.

A possible therapeutic approach that holds tremendous promise in the fight against joint disease is osteochondral allografting - the use of donor tissue to replace lost or damaged articular cartilage. One of the international thought leaders in this field, Dr. William Bugbee, comes to Scripps Clinic after a successful decade-long tenure as Chief of Arthritis Surgery and Joint Reconstruction at the University of California San Diego. Under his visionary leadership and guidance, the San Diego Cartilage Transplantation Program, now centered at SCORE, evolved into the nation’s largest and one of the most respected centers in the world.

Our commitment to clinical excellence and advancing the understanding of basic science principles regarding articular cartilage have led to local practices being generally recognized as the gold standard of care both by surgeons as well as by tissue banks nationwide. While the early outcomes of this exciting therapy have been extremely encouraging, changes in clinical practice and patient demographics make the need for more research and development that much more urgent in order to help make this technique better, safer, and more accessible for our patients.

One area of interest that continues to be a focus of active research is the development of tissue-engineered constructs to replace diseased parts of patients’ joints, progressing towards the design of a functional joint-replacement with living biologic tissue (bio-arthroplasty) derived from either patient or donor cells, as an alternative to prosthetic joint replacement.

We are hoping that our commitment to patient care and cutting edge research in the field of arthritis and joint disease will continue to benefit a growing number of exceedingly active and actively aging patients unfortunately afflicted with debilitating joint disease.