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Researchers transplant ankle joints grown from stem cells.

NARA, Japan, Jan. 28 Kyodo

A team of researchers from a university in western Japan and a semi-government research institute based in Tokyo have successfully implanted ankle joints grown from stem cells into two patients suffering from joint disease, a head researcher said Monday.

It is the first time a team has successfully taken stem cells from a human and cultivated them into a bone that is then implanted back into the patient, said Yoshinori Takakura, a professor at the prefectural Nara Medical University, who led the research together with Hajime Okuji from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.

The development could lead to possible applications in treating various bone and joint diseases including bone tumors, Takakura said.

Because the bones are grown from the patient's own stem cells, there is a far lower chance the body will reject the implant, and are more likely to stay securely in place, unlike original artificial joints made from ceramic and metals.

The two patients -- a 66-year-old woman from Mie Prefecture and a 70-year-old woman from Hyogo Prefecture -- were both suffering from arthropathy, a condition in which the bones of their ankles had worn down, meaning they had difficulty walking.

Takakura said the researchers cultivated stem cells for two weeks at the institute's Tissue Engineering Research Center in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture from bone marrow samples collected from the two women last November.

The cultivated cells were placed on the surface of ceramic artificial joints, and hormones were then added, as well as calcium, which is essential for strengthening bones, he said.

The researchers performed the transplants last December, and the two women did not develop any infections and were able to walk normally after two weeks, just half the usual recovery period for an artificial joint transplant.

The artificial joint made from the patient's stem cells are easier to conjoin and lasts 20 to 30 years, the researchers said.
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Publication:Japan Science Scan
Date:Feb 4, 2002
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