New Medical Option for People who Suffer Arthritis

NBC Nightly News—October 28, 2008

New research offers the promise of an alternative to joint replacements that surgeons perform every year.

It's a pain that James Harshaw understands all too well. Sports injuries left him with osteoarthritis of the knee. After eight years of pain, and still in his forties, he had no desire for an artificial knee replacement.

"That's just depressing," said Harshaw, "You don't see yourself like that if you've been active and now you find yourself sidelined."

After five minor surgeries failed to help, he found his way to Dr. Riley Williams at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Dr. Williams is trying an experimental treatment for osteoarthritis.

Dr. Williams explained, "This is a much shorter, focal operation through a very limited incision, much shorter time frame, much less pain. You're able to go in and if not stop the arthritis, certainly delay it's progress."

Osteoarthritis often begins as a small hole in the cartilage, the material that cushions the joints. Cartilage cannot re-grow naturally.

Dr. Williams said, "We always say a small hole is going to turn into a big hole eventually just give it enough time."

Dr. Williams' team tries to fill that hole with a piece of material made from the patients own cells. The surgeons snip off a tiny piece of cartilage from a healthy joint. That is broken into individual cells which multiply in a laboratory. These then grow into a piece of plastic scaffolding which make a patch to fill the hole.

James Harshaw says the scaffolding has helped him a lot -- as the experimental procedures could someday help millions of others.
This story originally appeared at

To view the full inclusion/exclusion criteria for Dr. Williams' clinical trial, please read A Randomized Comparison of NeoCart® to Microfracture for the Repair of Articular Cartilage Injuries in the Knee.

For more information also see the web extra.


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