Adult stem cell implant first in orthopaedic patient

The Royal Melbourne Hospital has performed the world's first implant of cultured specialist stem cells into an orthopaedic patient who suffered a broken femur nine months ago which failed to heal.

Mr Richard de Steiger, the Director of Orthopaedics at the hospital, performed the operation as an alternative to the standard bone graft which requires a separate incision and is potentially associated with other complications.

"If successful this procedure may significantly reduce or eliminate long-term patient complications while decreasing length of stay in hospital and costs associated with the treatment of long bone fractures," said Mr de Steiger.

The operation, performed on Friday 31 March 2006, is part of a groundbreaking clinical trial underway at The Royal Melbourne Hospital involving the use of adult stem cells in the treatment of patients suffering non-healing of bone fractures.

The patient, who suffered a non-healing fracture of his femur nine months ago, is in a stable condition after the procedure and is expected to be released from hospital soon.

The trial is a world first use of technology developed by Australian company, Mesoblast Limited, in an orthopaedic environment. This technology is used to select and expand extremely rare adult stem cells and is a very promising area of regenerative medicine.

Millions of people worldwide suffer from non-healing of long bone fractures; a painful condition mainly associated with accident victims. It is a major cost to health authorities globally.

For this type of non-healing defect, a bone graft using a large amount of bone taken from the patient's own hip would usually be considered. However, this often results in long-term complications including pain and possible infection.

The trial of up to 10 patients at the Royal Melbourne Hospital is an independent assessment of the safety of Mesoblast's specialist adult stem cell technology.

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