New Stem Cell Therapy May Prevent the Need for Hip Replacement Surgery

Doctors at Southampton General Hospital in the United Kingdom have successfully tested the use of bone marrow derived stem cells to treat osteonecrosis, a leading cause of hip replacement surgery. The procedure takes harvested bone marrow derived stem cells and mixes them with cleaned, crushed bone. Surgeons then remove any dead or damaged bone tissue and replace it with the stem cell/bone mixture. The mixture encourages the growth of new blood vessels to the area that was previously damaged, thus eliminating the osteonecrosis and any need for joint replacement.

“Although this work is still ongoing, several patients who have had the procedure have reacted very well and, if we get the results we are hoping for, these patients won’t need to have their hip joints replaced,” said Doug Dunlop, orthopedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital and co-developer of the procedure. Professor Richard Oreffor, a specialist in musculoskeletal science at the University of Southampton and co-developer of the procedure added “By using stem cells to send out chemical signals to blood vessels, we hope the body will continue to create new vessels in the hip which supply enough nutrients to maintain bone strength.”

Osteonecrosis is a disease that results from the temporary or permanent loss of blood flow to bones. This loss of blood results in bone tissue death and ultimately severe arthritis. If the osteonecrosis occurs at the bone joint, it can result in joint collapse and the need for hip joint replacement. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) osteonecrosis affects 10,000 – 20,000 people in the United States every year. Osteonecrosis is a frequent cause of arthritis, which is the most common cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis causes 992,100 hospitalizations and 44 million outpatient visits in the United States each year.

Each week we see a new stem Cell Therapy with exciting potential as a treatment for disease. Last week Osiris received approval for Prochymal in Canada (see News Wrap Up for full story). Also derived from bone marrow stem cells, Prochymal is a treatment for acute graft-versus host disease in children. The approval last week made it the first stem cell treatment to be approved for a systemic disease anywhere in the world. With several stem cell therapies making their way into the clinic, there are many questions around the large scale manufacturing of these cells for therapeutic use. One issue is the removal of animal products from the cell culture media and the best way to replace serum. A recent Cell Culture Dish blog titled “Exciting Treatment Possibilities with Stem Cells – What is the Best Cell Culture Method,” discussed possible solutions in detail. Another issue is the efficient large-scale production of these cells. In another cell culture dish blog titled “Culture and Expansion of Stem Cells in Stirred Suspension Bioreactors Could Provide Key in Large Scale Manufacturing,” the possible use of suspension bioreactors to culture stem cells is discussed.

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