Bristol hospital to carry out world stem cell first
PATIENTS are due to undergo a pioneering stem cell treatment to repair knee cartilage as a world first is trialled at a Bristol hospital.
The "bandage" which uses patients' own stem cells has been developed by a Bristol University spin-out company, Azellon Ltd, and will be implanted in their knee in a procedure at Southmead Hospital.
Patients with torn meniscal cartilage are now being recruited as part of the study.
In the initial phase ten patients will undergo the procedure.
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Researchers have already established in laboratory tests that stem cells can be used to repair tears in cartilage, which is a common sports injury.
Anthony Hollander, who has led the research, was involved in the world's first windpipe transplant in 2008 and has used similar technology to create the stem cell bandage for patients with torn knee cartilage.
Patients who have been diagnosed with torn meniscal cartilage following an MRI scan will have a small operation to take the bone marrow from their hip.
The stem cells taken from the bone marrow will then be sent to the lab to grow them on the membrane, called a bio-scaffold, which forms the basis of the bandage. Two weeks later the bandage would be sent back to Southmead for an arthroscopy operation, using a small camera, to implant the bandage into the site of the injury.
Patients will be advised not to stand for a few weeks after the procedure. They will then be followed up on a regular basis for seven years.
It is hoped that the procedure will lead to a better quality of life for people who currently have surgery to remove the cartilage and, which can lead them to suffer osteoarthritis.
Prof Hollander said: "Patients like this because there is no risk of rejection. These patients are often as young as 18, 19, 20 and within five to ten years of a standard operation to remove the damaged part, getting on for half of them are showing early signs of osteoarthritis and may need an artificial knee by the time they are in their 40s or 50s, which is not a good outcome at all, so the bandage should give these patients quality of life and reduce the cost for the health service."
The trial will run through the rest of this year and it is hoped that within a year the researchers will have their first results. Providing they get funding the hope is to then move on to a bigger research trial.
Mr Hollander said: "I am very excited, this is the culmination of many years of research. This is about turning science and ideas into reality. We can now begin the process to find out if it is safe and helps these patients.
"I have been pushing stem cells for some time and have been telling the public that they will change the way we do medicine and I believe that, but we really need to show that."
Anyone interested in finding out more about the research trial should visit www.azellonctx.com.