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Doctors Used Nose Cells To Successfully Operate On Knee Injuries

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Swiss doctors have successfully conducted an experimental form of knee surgery using cells from patient’s noses, treating 10 adults.

The cells came from cartilage in the patient’s noses, and the doctors patched knee injuries two years ago. Now, most of the patients have grown new cartilage in the operated area and have reported feeling improvements in pain, knee function and overall quality of life, US News and World Report states.

Ivan Martin, lead researcher and professor of tissue engineering at the University of Basel, says,

We have developed a new, promising approach to the treatment of articular cartilage injuries.

The articular cartilage is the tissue that protects the end of knee bones. Injuries to it can lead to painful, degenerative joint problems like osteoarthritis.

The results of the surgeries are promising, but Martin stresses that more studies and large-scale clinical trials are needed before the technique can be made publicly available.

Dr. Nicole Rotter, vice chair of the department of otorhinolaryngology at Ulm University in Germany, wrote an accompanying editorial to the study and welcomed the procedure. “Treatment of cartilage injuries remains a significant clinical problem, and there is no gold standard treatment and no optimal treatment available,” she wrote. The concept of using nose cells is completely new, but she also recommends further research.

Martin and a team of scientists took small cartilage cell samples from their patients’ noses, and exposed them to a growth hormone so they would multiply. All the cells were put in a collagen membrane and cultured for two weeks. Then the resulting graft was cut into the appropriate shape. The damaged cartilage was surgically removed from each of the patient’s knees, and the new graft installed in its place.

After the operation, the patients had to use crutches for six to eight weeks. Full recovery can take months, the researchers say.

After two years, the patients underwent MRI scans, which revealed that knee tissue similar to normal knee cartilage had grown in the affected area. Nine of the ten patients said they experienced less pain and were able to use their knee properly. The tenth patient was excluded because of recent sports injuries.

Doctors are optimistic about the procedure, and applaud the research efforts, hoping that it can soon be made available to all patients.

The study was published in The Lancet.

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