SOURCE: AAOS

March 05, 2008 14:45 ET

The 21st Century Triple Play

What Is Next in Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering and Gene Therapy?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - March 5, 2008) - The use of stem cells may have the power to transform orthopaedic surgery now and in the future. These "undifferentiated, unspecialized cells" already exist in our bodies and can renew themselves, giving rise to one or more specialized cells that have specific functions within the body. The use of stem cells is a biotechnology that is developing rapidly, offering new hope to patients suffering from musculoskeletal conditions.

Over the past few years, orthopaedic surgeons have successfully used patients' own stem cells to reverse very painful, disabling conditions. Just last year, Thomas Einhorn, MD, chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering at Boston University, performed his first revision hip replacement surgery using the new technology of harvesting his patient's own stem cells.

"This area of musculoskeletal medicine shows great promise for the use of stem cells, tissue engineering and gene therapy," Dr. Einhorn stated. "As orthopaedic scientists, researchers and surgeons, we treat bones, joints, tissues and muscles -- the exact areas where stem cells are meant to be put to use."

Adult stem cells are readily available from a number of sources -- from fat harvested through liposuction to muscle tissue and bone marrow biopsies. Today, stem cell technology is being used for fracture repair and bony defects. However, the implications for the not-so-distant future are beyond the imagination.

In 2005, nearly 25 million people visited their physician due to arthritis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

"Arthritic patients come into our offices and ask what we can do for them," Dr. Einhorn continued. "One day soon, we may be able to harvest their body's own stem cells and direct those cells to the damaged and degenerative cartilage, which causes the arthritic pain. This application may restore and regenerate the cartilage to a normal state. Stem cells have the power to become the cells that your body has lost or needs."

Orthopaedic research scientists are working on stem cell therapies to improve:

-- tissue healing

-- muscle regeneration

-- cartilage repair and bone growth

-- orthopaedic diseases and conditions (including osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, osteosarcomas and even muscular dystrophy)

Stem cells could eventually eliminate the need for joint replacement as researchers find ways for cartilage and bone to regenerate in specific areas.

Orthopaedic trauma -- including fracture repair and failure of bone healing -- represents a significant burden of disease. Patients suffering from orthopaedic trauma may be the greatest beneficiaries of many futuristic cell harvesting techniques. In fact, each year, trauma-related orthopaedic conditions account for 1.9 million hospitalizations and over $30 billion in total charges.

Dr. Einhorn will moderate the ins and outs of this newer technology and what it means to the field of musculoskeletal medicine at a media briefing entitled "The 21st Century Triple Play: Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering and Gene Therapy." The briefing occurs on Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2008, at the 75th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in the Moscone Convention Center, South Mezzanine, at 9:00 a.m., in Room 224.

Panelists scheduled to join Dr. Einhorn: Johnny Huard, PhD, Scott Boden, MD, and Scott Rodeo, MD. Dr. Huard, a cutting-edge researcher at the University of Pittsburg, will discuss the relationship between stem cells and gene therapy and Dr. Boden, the application of this futuristic medicine as it relates to the spine and other bone applications, while Dr. Rodeo will discuss stem cells and their use for soft tissues, including muscles and tendons, and future implications for musculoskeletal medicine.

Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS)

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