The Brainy State - Tendons

"If you've ever suffered a tendon injury, you'll know how debilitating and painful it is. But what if your own body held the key to a cure? Well, ground-breaking new technology developed right in here in Western Australia is offering hope to thousands of sufferers - from sports-stars right through to ordinary people." It's a new frontier for medicine, that's changing people's lives.

Three and a half years ago, Ricky Gardner was in agony the pain in her hip so bad, she was close to giving up the life she loved.

The antiques dealer believes a lifetime of shifting and lifting heavy furniture caused the injury to her hip gluteal tendon.

She tried every available treatment without success at her wits-end; Ricky signed up for a radical new treatment undergoing clinical trials here in Perth.

The idea was surprisingly simple. Extract stem cells from a patient's healthy tendon, replicate them in a lab then inject the new cells into the injured tendon and wait for repair to occur. Your body, healing itself, with a helping hand from modern medicine.

"It's your cells, taken from your own body, from your tendon, and returned back to you in your own serum, which is taken from your blood." Paul Anderson is the managing director of Orthocell - the Murdoch University-based company that has pioneered this cutting-edge treatment.

"The types of tendon injury we're treating are repetitive trauma. So it's not a one-off spraining of the ankle, but it's multiple either micro-traumas or ongoing larger traumas. Where they lose their own innate ability to heal themselves, and that's where we come into the game."

With up to twenty-five thousand tendon surgeries performed in Australia every year, Paul knew his work had huge potential. "So we've taken the idea in the mid-2000s from a concept. We've taken that through proof of concept, pre-animal clinical studies through to human studies. And now we have a licence to manufacture human tenocytes from the therapeutic goods administration."

Results from the trial are very encouraging; with clinical data showing patients are still pain-free four-and-a-half years after treatment. "We're pleased that these results have been accepted by the scientific community here broadly. Not just in Australia, but through South East Asia and probably most importantly right through into the international community." Today Paul is giving us a tour of the lab where the tendon cells - or tenocytes - are created and nurtured.

In another world-first, Orthocell recently grew a whole new human tendon inside a machine. "That tendon now we believe has the potential to be engrafted back into a patient who has lost or is lacking a whole tendon."

As for Ricky, she was back to her old self in just three months. Modern science using the bodies own building blocks to repair damaged tendons and even creates new ones.

For more details on the Orthocell tendon treatment:-


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