Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a new stem cell technology to aid in the better and faster healing of complicated bone fractures.

This technology, which involves the isolation of stem cells from the bone marrow, has been already used successfully in the treatment of severe fractures in seven patients at the Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem.

Up to today, the standard treatment in clinical orthopedics for serious bone loss has encompassed basically two options: amputation or long periods of disability.  Equally, prosthetic implants have proven inefficient in the long term.  When there is too much loss of bone, the fracture may not heal, and this is the case of more than a million people per year, just in the United States.

In the last years, there have been promising advances for biological therapy to treat complicated fractures and skeleton disorders, specifically by using mesenchymal or multipotent stem cells (MSC’s), which can differentiate between various cell types.  These cells are unique adult stem cells that can be rapidly isolated from various places in the body, mainly bone marrow and fat tissues, and used to repair different injured tissues like bone, cartilage, tendons, intervertebral discs, and even heart muscle.

The way in which MSC isolation is normally conducted is lengthy, expensive, and also harmful to the healing quality of the cells, because it requires long periods of growth inside incubators.  It was urgent to find a way that would allow for the immediate use of stem cells; the regenerative medicine field was begging for one, and the Hebrew University heard them.

The technology this group developed is called immuno-isolation.  Basically, MSC’s are sorted out in a bone marrow sample by using a specific antibody.  It was proven that this technique made it possible to immediately use the cells to create new bone tissue in lab animals.  After this discovery, several scientists from different interested parties joined forces to establish a clinical-grade protocol for the use of immuno-isolated MSC’s.

The head of orthopedics at Hadassah University Hospital, the Good Manufacturing Practice facility at Hadassah, and the Gazit group at the Faculty of Dental Medicine, conducted a clinical trial in order to establish the foundation for the use of immuno-isolated MSC’s in orthopedic surgery.

Seven patients have benefited so far from the treatment of combining their own immuno-isolated MSC’s and blood products.  The procedure lasted a few hours and didn’t require the growing of cells in a lab.

This success is expected to touch other skeleton injuries, like degenerated intervertebral disks and torn tendons.  It is expected that this treatment will help tackle morbidity in patients with skeletal fractures and diseases, and will help re-establish function and quality of life for many people.

In hopes of making this technology available to many more, the university has licensed the immuno-isolation technology to TheraCell Inc. in California since July 2009.  This organization will develop and commercialize this technology thoroughly for advanced regenerative medical purposes, like spinal fusion.

The mission of life sciences consulting firms is to help pharmaceutical companies land opportunities like this one, where they are able to change lives for the better, showing care and respect for patients in need, while staying at the head of innovation.

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