Doctors in the UK are extracting stem cells from the bone marrow of patients in need of hip repair due to osteonecrosis – a condition where poor blood supply causes significant bone damage leading to severe arthritis.
These cells are mixed with cleaned, crushed bone and used to fill the hole made by surgeons after dead and damaged tissue has been removed from the joint.
Stem cells from bone marrow are termed MSC or Mesenchymal Stem Cells and especially suited in rebuilding bone and tissue. This type of stem cell is also found in the dental pulp of teeth.
Bone marrow has traditionally been the go-to source for these types of stem cells but with the discovery of dental pulp as a convenient and non-invasive source, many people are now sending baby teeth that fall out naturally or extracted wisdom teeth off to be banked for the day they need those stem cells.
The hip regeneration procedure has been developed by a specialist in musculoskeletal science at the University of Southampton.
"Although this work is still ongoing, several patients who have had the procedure have reacted very well and, if we get the results we are hoping for, these patients won't need to have their hip joints replaced – they should be fixed completely," said the specialist.
"By using stem cells to send out chemical signals to blood vessels, we hope the body will continue to create new vessels in the hip which supply enough nutrients to maintain bone strength." added another specialist working with the stem cells procedure.
Osteonecrosis is on the rise worldwide as generations live longer but it is much more widespread in Asia where it is the most common form of arthritis of the hip, a spokesman for the hospital said.