A medical team in Australia has announced that it has become the first to implant laboratory-grown stem cells into an orthopaedic patient. The procedure may eventually be used instead of the more complicated and painful bone grafting procedure that is currently commonly used to treat bad bone injuries. The patient, Jamie Stevens had a motorbike accident last year, leaving him with a badly broken leg - which later failed to properly heal.
The doctors, from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, harvested a sample of stem cells from the hip of the patient, and then cultured them in the laboratory for seven weeks before re-implanting them into the leg. Using a patient's own cells avoids potential problems of the body's immune system rejecting foreign transplanted cells. Richard de Steiger, the Director of the Orthopaedics unit at the hospital, used about 30 million of the stem cells - which had been encouraged to differentiate into bone-producing cells - placing them into a five centimetre cavity in the patient's thigh area.
Dr de Steiger said that the procedure - if the results are successful in Mr Stevens - could be put to more widespread use and would be helpful in reducing the complications of difficult bone operations, as well as the overall cost. 'It's the first procedure in the world to use the patient's own stem cells and make them turn into bone forming cells that are the patient's own cells to stimulate the healing of fractures', he commented. It will be six weeks before the doctors know if the cells have started to grow into new bone, as hoped. 'Like any medical research it's exciting, but it's tempered by the fact you have to wait and see the results', said Dr de Steiger.
Mr Stevens, who is 21, went home just four days after the procedure. He said that he was happy to be the first patient in the world to undergo this experimental procedure. 'It's good to be part of something that is on the brink', he said, adding 'I think the benefit outweighs the old procedure and being able to avoid having a big chunk of bone taken out of the hip... the recovery period of it is a lot quicker'.
Sources and References
Broken bone treatment first
Doctors 'grow' leg bone
World-first stem cell surgery