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Seoul Doctors Find Alternative To Surgical Joint Replacement

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South Korean doctors recently carried out a small study in Seoul, involving 10 patients, to test a type of jelly extracted from stem cells for the treatment of arthritic knees. The results of the research have led the doctors to believe that the technology could be an appropriate substitute for joint replacement surgery, the Daily Mail reports.

For the purposes of the research, the doctors used jelly from stem cells taken from donor umbilical blood and established that the treatment resulted in 67% improvement in restoration of the cartilage. The stem cells were found to accelerate the repair and re-growth of damaged cartilage.

Currently, there are two clinical trials underway aimed at monitoring the effects of this type of treatment, involving 50 patients at Rush University in Chicago and Brigham and Women´s Hospital, Massachusetts, and at seven healthcare institutions in South Korea.

The treatment relies on stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood as it has been proved that they are more active than adult ones. The stem cells are separated from the cord blood and turned into a gel-like substance in a laboratory. The gel is applied to the damaged cartilage during keyhole surgery.

The treatment could be a good alternative for elderly people suffering from knee arthritis or for people who have large areas affected by arthritis.

In the UK, cord blood is stored by the NHS Cord Blood bank. According to Professor Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK, using stem cells from a number of sources to restore cartilage offers great potential. The technology is yet to be fully examined but if it proves reliable enough, it could replace surgical joint replacement in the future, he said.