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Posted Jan 09 2013 12:00am

An -invented stem cell treatment for spinal surgery has been successfully used for the first time in the United States.  The patented stem cells product created by -based company Mesoblast was trialed in a small group of patients with spinal discs that had degenerated beyond repair.  The bone marrow-derived stem cells – called mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs) – were used to promote bone growth to fuse together spinal vertebrae, to eliminate debilitating leg and back pain.

If the procedure ultimately passes the final stage of clinical trials and is approved by America’s drug regulator, it would potentially provide patients worldwide with a quicker and less invasive procedure.

The -approved trial compared the use of stem cells to fuse vertebrae with bone harvested from the patient’s own hip, the current gold standard for this common operation.  The stem cells were used in conjunction with two chemicals to encourage bone growth, said Texas surgeon Dr Randall Dryer, who performed a number of in the trial.  The chemicals, hydroxyapatite and tricalcium phosphate, are non-cellular components of bone that tell the stem cells to turn into bone-forming cells, rather than other tissues, “If you put these cells into an environment that stimulates them to grow into bone, they do.  That eliminates us having to take the patient’s own bone from a different location to pack in there“, said Dr. Dryer, an orthopedic surgeon at the Central Texas Institute in Austin.

Eight of the 24 patients enrolled in the trial had the surgery using their own bone.  Of these, six patients’ bone had successfully fused after a year.  Six out of seven patients given a low concentration of stem cells had equally successful results, while five out of eight patients given a higher concentration of stem cells achieved the bone fusion.  “These stem cells work at least as good as or better than the patients’ own bone.”  The advantage of the operation is that it cancels the need to harvest the patient’s own bone, which lengthens the surgery time, is more painful and can lead to more complications.  This is hopefully going to be a new tool that we can use to help patients recover less painfully, quicker and with just the same effectiveness.” There were no adverse events in the phase two trial, which tests the product for safety and efficacy.  The company plans to apply for FDA approval to conduct a larger phase three trial in the United States, Europe and Australia later this year.

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