Dec. 17, 2009
Doctors in the U.K. have used a man's own adult stem cells mixed with a collagen paste to repair his fractured leg. Andrew Kent broke his leg in five places including a compound fracture, while rock climbing, when a large boulder fell on his leg. After three operations, the bones were still not setting and the wound became infected. Mr. Kent was told that he was likely to lose his leg. The bones were broken so badly that traditional surgery failed. Orthopedic surgeon Anan Shetty offered an alternative. He took some of Mr. Kent's bone marrow adult stem cells, mixed them with a new collagen gel called Cartifill to make a paste, and caulked the fractures with the mixture. Then the leg was fixed in a metal cage to gently squeeze the bones together. Six months later, the leg can hold weight and the fractures are healing. According to Dr. Shetty:
"This is an amazing technique. He won't be able to run for about a year, but after 18 months his bones will have healed completely. I'm sure he'll be able to go back and rock climb again."
The Cartifill collagen gel was invented by Professor Seok Jung Kim, a South Korean orthopedic surgeon, and has also been used in trials with adult stem cells to repair torn cartilage in the knee.
Previous research with adult stem cells has seen great success at healing non-healing fractures, even getting patients out of their wheelchairs in some cases.