Scientists develop alternative to knee replacement

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    Scientists develop alternative to knee replacement



    A growing number of young people who are advised knee replacement surgeries could soon opt for a less invasive surgery without using an artificial knee joint to get back to their feet.


    Making this possible is a team of scientists from the Central Leather Research Institute, Chennai and specialists from Sri Ramachandra Medical College (SRMC).

    "The team has successfully developed an in-vitro culture of cartilege cells of the knee to be implanted in the knee with the help of a bovine collagen scaffold," said R P Sehgal, scientist and head, bio products, CLRI. The cells, called chondrocytes, have been found to grow to repair the degenerated knee joint. Trials in bovines have been a success and human trials will begin soon.

    "Once worn out, cartilage of the knee joint usually doesn't regenerate. But if detected in the early stages, tissue culture can help regenerate it," said Dr S Arumugam, head of department, arthroscopy and sports medicine, Sri Ramachandra Medical College, who, along with CLRI officials is working on the chondrocyte culture. The treatment may cost less than Rs 1 lakh, which is half that of a knee replacement surgery, and the patient needs to be in hospital only for a day, as against one week's hospitalisation for replacement surgery.

    Chondrocytes of the patient is taken and cultured in-vitro. It takes up to four weeks, depending on the health of the chondrocytes. Meanwhile, a collagen-based scaffolding is readied to be implanted with the chondrocytes. The scaffold supports the knee until the chondocytes begin to function normally. "It is a key hole surgery lasting no longer than 50 minutes. The patient can leave the hospital in a day," added Arumugam.

    According to the specialist, the treatment will benefit those in the early stages of chondromalacia (where the cartilege begin to soften). "It is unlikely to be of help to those in the sixties with advanced ortho-arthritis and requiring knee replacement," said Arumugam. "However, a number of major surgeries can be avoided since there is growing evidence that younger people are afflicted with knee pain," said Arumugam.

    Surgeons concur. "In the last 10 years, the age of patients with knee degeneration has been coming down, due to sedentary lifestyle and obesity," said Dr Mani Ramesh, joint replacement specialist, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai. "The chondrocytes culture is an exciting concept. However, it should be proven scientifically and clinically since the procedure aims to change the mosaic of the joint," he said.

    Mayilvahanam Natarajan, head of the department of orthopaedic surgery, Madras Medical College felt the procedure is likely to be a boon for many people in their 30s and 40s, but will not replace prosthesis entirely. "Both will complement each other, and early detection in the young will help bring down the number of surgeries," he said.

    ----Agencies--

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