Stem cell treatment for spine tested

AN Australian-invented stem cell treatment for spinal surgery has been successfully used for the first time in the United States.

The patented stem cells product created by Melbourne-based company Mesoblast was trialled in a small group of patients with spinal discs that had degenerated beyond repair.

The bone marrow-derived stem cells - called mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs) - were used to promote bone growth to fuse together spinal vertebrae, to eliminate debilitating leg and back pain.

If the procedure ultimately passes the final stage of clinical trials and is approved by America's drug regulator, it would potentially provide patients worldwide with a quicker and less invasive procedure.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved trial compared the use of stem cells to fuse vertebrae with bone harvested from the patient's own hip, the current gold standard for this common operation.

The stem cells were used in conjunction with two chemicals to encourage bone growth, said Texas surgeon Dr Randall Dryer, who performed a number of surgical procedures in the trial.

The chemicals, hydroxyapatite and tricalcium phosphate, are non-cellular components of bone that tell the stem cells to turn into bone-forming cells, rather than other tissues, Dr Dryer said.

"If you put these cells into an environment that stimulates them to grow into bone, they do," Dr Dryer told AAP.

"That eliminates us having to take the patient's own bone from a different location to pack in there."

Dr Dryer, an orthopedic surgeon at the Central Texas Institute in Austin, said eight of the 24 patients enrolled in the trial had the surgery using their own bone.

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Stem cell treatment for spine tested

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