Mending Meniscus Tears with Stem Cells
Scientists begin first human trials of revolutionary stem cell 'living bandage' for meniscal tear knee injuries.
For the first time, a living bandage formulated from stem cells is being used to treat a common knee injury. Researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Bristol have trialed this revolutionary treatment on humans. The condition is meniscal tears, which are common among athletes, particularly those who play football or rugby. Over 1 million people every year in Europe and the US suffer this injury. The tear occurs mostly in the center of the meniscus which is difficult to repair due to poor blood supply. For many people especially athletes, the only solution is a surgical operation to remove the torn tissue, but this puts the patient at risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life. The 'cell bandage' as it is called, was developed by the firm Azellon and trial funding was supported by Innovate UK. The study was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.
Cell Bandage Made From Patients Own Stem Cells
The cell bandage was engineered to help the meniscal tear injury heal itself by promoting new cell growth in the affected tissues. The prototype cell bandage was trialed on five people 18 to 45 years old suffering from meniscal tears. The bandage is made of stem cells from the patient's bone marrow, and the cells take two weeks to grow before being implanting onto a membrane scaffolding. Surgery is then required to sew the membrane into the torn cartilage.
After a 24 month healing period, 3 out of 5 patients were reported with full knee functionality. In the other two patients, healing was not successful and surgical removal of the meniscus was necessary due to a return of symptoms. Professor Anthony Hollander suggested that the cell bandage trial was a success and was confident that this new procedure will bring an alternative to the traditional surgery. The goal is to use stem cells to restore the damaged knee to full functionality by repairing all damaged tissue.
Future Cell Bandage to be Made From Donar Stem Cells
The team is currently working on an advanced version of the cell bandage, this time using donor stem cells. The hope is to reduce the cost of the bandage and simplify the medical procedure. Professor Ashley Blom explained that the cell bandage is offering surgeons an exciting new alternative treatment for knee injuries.
The new bandage could benefit younger patients by offering the benefit of lower risks of early onset osteoarthritis. Innovate UK said that commercial success is going to depend on the close cooperation between businesses, hospitals, and universities. This first human trial of the cell bandage is an exciting turn for the future of stem cell research.
Anthony P. Hollander et al. Repair of Torn Avascular Meniscal Cartilage Using Undifferentiated Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells: From In Vitro Optimization to a First-in-Human Study. Stem Cells Translational Medicine, December 2016 DOI: 10.1002/sctm.16-0199