The world's first stem cell therapy to repair torn cartilage
in the knee has been brought one step closer.
Professor Anthony Hollander, co-founder of University of
Bristol spin-out Azellon Cell Therapeutics, has just received funding of £65,000
to carry out clinical trials on the use of a patient's own stem cells for knee repair.
More than 900,000 Europeans a year suffer from tears in the meniscal
cartilage, which stops the knee bones rubbing together, usually through sports-related
injuries. Current treatment options are limited to surgery, with partial or
total removal of the meniscus. However, there is a high risk of developing osteoarthritis
of the knee within five to eight years of surgery, which eventually requires total
The bandage, which is grown from the patient's own stem
cells, is put in place within two weeks of harvesting the cells from the bone
marrow using a simple surgical procedure. It is hoped these stem cells will
heal the tear.
'With permission for a trial from Medicines and Healthcare
products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and completion of this funding round, we are
now ready to get going on our safety trial; it's an important moment for
Azellon and for stem cell research', explained Professor Hollander.
The funding for the current trial has been obtained from Mr
Hugh Osmond, a current partner of Sun Capital who has helped set up Pizza
Express. 'As a keen sportsman who has had multiple knee operations myself, I
believe that this procedure has the potential to be a major breakthrough in
treating knee and eventually other joint injuries', he said. 'For many of the
1.7 million people a year who have operations to repair torn knee cartilage, it
could be the difference between an active old age or spending their pension
years in a wheel chair. I am very excited'.
Laboratory tests have been very promising, and the phase I
clinical trial, which received MHRA approval in June, will test the stem cell
bandage on ten patients, primarily to investigate its safety, but to also
determine if it works in humans.
The trial, which will take place at Southmead Hospital in Bristol,
is scheduled to begin May 2012, with interim results being released after 18
months. Professor Hollander was part of the team who successfully
transplanted the first tissue-engineered windpipe into a Colombian woman in July
Other partners in the venture are Oxford Technology
Management and IP Group plc. 'Azellon's stem cell bandage is targeted at a very
large and growing market with a clear medical need and we are pleased to
support the company as it moves into its Phase I/IIa trial', said Alan Aubrey, chief
executive officer of IP Group.