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A real knees up

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Patients suffering osteoarthritis and other debilitating knee complaints have reported major improvements in pain and mobility following injections with their own stem cells.

In a development that could transform the lives of thousands and reduce the need for costly joint replacement surgery, scientists at the Melbourne Stem Cell Centre have reported “excellent” results in a trial of the use of stem cells to manage osteoarthritis and isolated cartilage lesions.

Interim results of the trial show there was a statistically significant improvement in pain and function after one month, and after nine months more than 65 per cent of patients aged 41 to 60 years experienced at least a 50 per cent reduction in pain.

The researchers, led by the Centre’s Chief Clinical Investigator, Dr Julien Freitag, were particularly excited by the progress of a 26-year-old patient with osteo chondritis dessicans.

The patient, who had undergone seven major knee operations in 12 years, joined the trial in June last year and MRI scans since then show that his cartilage has begun to regrow and pre-existing damage to the knee is starting to reverse.

While the privately-funded trial is yet to be completed, Dr Freitag said the interim results were “extremely encouraging”, and confirmed that the promise of regenerative therapies such as the use of stem cells was now “closer to reality”.

He said MRI analysis showed consistent stabilisation and a halt to the progress of arthritis in test subjects, and regrowth of cartilage in some.

Importantly, the improvements have been sustained beyond 12 months.

The technique involves using liposuction to obtain a sample of the patient’s stem cells, which are isolated and expanded before being injected back into them.

The results have been so promising that patients in the trial’s control group have been invited to undergo the treatment after 12 months of data collection.

See also: Push for crack on unproven stem cell therapies

Adrian Rollins

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