Stem cell treatment new frontier

An Australian-based biomedical company has approached sports scientists and doctors, including those at AFL clubs, spruiking contentious ''frontier'' stem cell treatment to help players recover from injury.

The developmental and largely unproven treatment, banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency if it is performance-enhancing, but approved if it is solely for injury purposes, involves fat cells being taken from a player and processed.

These processed stem cells are then injected into the injured tendon or joint, in the hope it stimulates cartilage growth to ease pain.

But at a time when the Essendon and Melbourne football clubs are under investigation for a supplements scandal, allegedly used in part to fast-track recovery for injured players, an AFL medico and club doctors have told Fairfax Media they remain cautious about stem cell treatment.

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They confirmed the company and treatment was known within AFL circles but some said there was little or no proof that it worked.

There have been reports the company, Regeneus, along with other biomedical companies, are willing to provide free treatment in the hope of using that player's rights to help sell the product. This particular treatment costs $9000 and there is no Medicare rebate.

There have also been concerns from sports doctors about safety and whether treatment would endanger players in the long term, for the stem cells may only mask the pain and not heal the injury itself.

''I am just a little bit sceptical about it at the moment,'' one AFL club doctor said. ''It's available to us, and it's a little more expensive, but we have used a couple of other blood-derived products ourselves.''

Another AFL doctor said: ''I would see it as a frontier area for potential treatments. I don't see it playing a role in performance enhancement. It's a form of injury treatment.''

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Stem cell treatment new frontier

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