The Cell Bandage has been developed by spin-out company Azellon, and is designed to enable the meniscal tear to repair itself by encouraging cell growth in the affected tissue.
‘The bandage was made with stem cells, harvested from the patient's own bone marrow, which were then grown for two weeks before being seeded onto a membrane scaffold that helps to deliver the cells into the injured site.’
A meniscus tear occurs in the rubbery knee cartilage that cushions the shinbone from the thighbone. The meniscus can tear with forceful twisting or rotation of the knee.
Meniscal tears affect over one million people a year in the US and Europe alone and are particularly common in contact sports like football and rugby. When the tear occurs in the white zone of meniscus which lacks a blood supply, it becomes difficult to repair. Many professional sports players opt to have the torn tissue removed altogether, risking osteoarthritis in later life.
A prototype version of the Cell Bandage was trialled in five patients, aged between 18 and 45, with white-zone meniscal tears. The procedure involved taking stem cells, harvested from the patient's own bone marrow, which were then grown for two weeks before being seeded onto a membrane scaffold that helps to deliver the cells into the injured site.
The manufactured Cell Bandage was then surgically implanted into the middle of the tear and the cartilage was sewn up around the bandage to keep it in place.
All five patients had an intact meniscus 12 months post implantation. By 24 months, three of the five patients retained an intact meniscus and had returned to normal knee functionality whilst the other two patients required surgical removal of the damaged meniscus due to a new tear or return of symptoms.
Professor Anthony Hollander, Chair of Stem Cell Biology at the University of Liverpool and Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Azellon, said, "The Cell Bandage trial results are very encouraging and offer a potential alternative to surgical removal that will repair the damaged tissue and restore full knee function."
"We are currently developing an enhanced version of the Cell Bandage using donor stem cells, which will reduce the cost of the procedure and remove the need for two operations."
Professor Blom commented: "The Cell Bandage offers an exciting potential new treatment option for surgeons that could particularly benefit younger patients and athletes by reducing the likelihood of early onset osteoarthritis after meniscectomy."
- Anthony Hollander, Stem cell living bandage for knee injuries trialed in humans, Stem Cells Translational Medicine (2016).