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Clinical trials underway for new way to repair cartilage damage in knee

Doctors now using patient's own cartilage to make fix

HOUSTON – Clinical trials are underway for a new way to repair cartilage damage in the knee. So far, the results are promising.

The current standard treatment, micro fracture, involves making small holes in the bone, which create a hybrid cartilage that may break down over time. Doctors are now using a patient's own cartilage to make the fix.

Bjorn Borrell isn’t quite ready to play basketball yet, but a few months after the NeoCart procedure, he’s feeling strong.

"I have no pain. From what I'm doing right now in PT (physical therapy), everything is fine," Borrell said. "The knee's not swollen. I have great mobility in it. I can walk. I can do hiking."

Borrell had a small area of damage, or a pothole, in the articular cartilage of his knee. That's the shiny tissue between the femur and shin bone that allows smooth joint movement. Borrell's cartilage was causing pain and swelling.

He went to Dr. Robert Grumet, an orthopedic surgeon who is running a trial on the NeoCart autologous tissue implant.

"We are harvesting their cartilage and growing it in a lab, and then re-implanting that cartilage in a patient where they're missing a piece of cartilage," Grumet said.

After the cartilage cells grow in the lab for six weeks, doctors trim the new tissue implant to fit in the hole and secure it with a bioadhesive.

"If we can recreate the normal anatomy (so) that the function will improve, the patient's long-term outcome could improve. We could delay the onset of arthritis in that knee long term," Grumet said.

Borrell still has some work to do to get his knee to fully function, but he and Grumet agree he's well on his way.

The NeoCart clinical trial is 75 percent full, but is still accepting candidates. You must be between 18 and 59 years old and have pain in one knee. To find out if you qualify, call 855-552-5633.