News & Events

Cartilage Cell Transplantation

The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital is currently the only hospital in the UK to offer a type of cartilage cell transplantation procedure called Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI).

Funding for the vital research to support this success has come from our charity, the Orthopaedic Institute as well as Arthritis Research UK and
Research UK.

What is it?

Cartilage cell transplantation involves the removing of healthy cartilage cells from the patient's knee and growing them in culture, where they multiply at least 20 fold. The patient then has an operation to remove the damaged part of the cartilage and the newly grown cells are implanted in its place.

The cells anchor themselves to the bone within 24 hours - "growing" new cartilage at the damaged site.  A patient can expect to resume everyday use in three months and full activities including sports, in twelve months. This development is important as previously the only alternative was knee replacement which for young patients is unsatisfactory.

RJAH is the only site in the UK currently able to offer ACI. The specialist orthopaedic hospital has been working in partnership with Keele University and the Oswestry-based Orthopaedic Institute; the trio setting up the OsCell Cell Manufacturing Facility to produce the chondrocytes.

The use of ACI at RJAH was first pioneered by the legendary Professor James Richardson.  “Prof” spent 20 years leading trials before the procedure won approval from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to be funded by the NHS in October 2017.

He was still leading research into developing the technique right up to his untimely passing in February 2018 and procedures are still performed at RJAH by experienced Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeons   Mr Paul JerminMr Pete Gallacher and Mr Andrew Barnett, pictured below; 

However . . .

We now need to raise funds to support continued research and development and to upgrade our existing facilities to enable more and more patients to benefit. 

Please help us by clicking on the Fundraising tab above for details of how you can help or alternatively please contact Debra Alexander or send a cheque payable to the “Orthopaedic Institute Ltd”

Tel: 01691 404561  Email: enquiries@orthopaedic-institute.org

 

What our patients say . . .

 

Patient Case Study:

Christopher Bloore

 

Seven years ago Christopher Bloore was a thrill-seeker, who led an extremely active lifestyle.

He was a keen mountain biker, who also raced sidecars at racetracks all over the country – including the Isle of Man TT races. 

That was until he started suffering with knee problems in 2009, after an accident on a mountain bike.

Mr Bloore, 45, a Mechanical Engineer from Market Drayton in Shropshire, said: “I went from living an extremely fast-paced, busy and active lifestyle to not really be able to do much at all, which was really hard for me, as well as for my wife and kids.

“It meant I wasn’t able to do things we all take for granted, I wasn’t able to go anywhere or take the kids on holiday. It was really frustrating.

“My knee just gave way as the cartilage was worn, and as a Mechanical Engineer, you spend a lot of time on your knees, so that made my working life very difficult, in total over the past seven years I’ve probably had about two of those in total off.”

Mr Bloore (pictured with his wife, Emma) said the pain had “taken over his life” and eventually piled on five stone due to not being able to take part in any physical activity.

He had had enough – until he was referred to The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, where he was seen by Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Professor. James Richardson, who put him forward for ACI.

Mr Bloore started the trial in April 2016 and has not looked back since.

He said: “I’m delighted I was given the chance to trial ACI, I’m able to live a normal life again, I’ve even managed to shift the five stone I’d put on from inactivity. I’m absolutely delighted, it’s made a huge difference to not just my life, but also my wife and kids.

“I’ve made huge progress since the trial. I’m back at work, and I’m able to move around again. It’s made a huge difference to my quality of life.”

 

Patient Case Study:

Tim Lennox

For sporty lawyer Tim Lennox, ACI has offered a new lease of life.

The 29-year-old was a keen footballer but was forced to quit playing as pain in his knee got worse and worse.

And, with other options not working, he was more than happy to make the long journey from his home in Glasgow to take part in the trials for ACI at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital.

“I’m not sure where the original injury came from,” said Tim. “But it was probably from playing football.

“About four or five years ago I started to have more problems with my knee, and I decided to have something done about it.

“I went for treatment but it didn’t really work so I requested a second opinion. It was then that ACI was mentioned to me and I was referred down here to see Professor Richardson.”

Tim made the trip down from Scotland in 2017 to have healthy cartilage cells taken from his knee. These were then grown in the OsCell Laboratory over a three week period before being implanted back in his knee in the affected area.

He is now hoping to be able to return to a more active lifestyle in the future.

“I’m in the recovery phase at the moment, so it is early days, but I’m really pleased with the progress I’m making,” he said.

“My prospects look good and the procedure seems to have gone about as well as it could.

“I doubt you’ll see me back on a football field – I don’t want to take the risk – but I want to get back to playing sport and I will probably concentrate on golf now.

“I’m so grateful to Professor Richardson and the team at Oswestry. The work they do is incredible and I think it is fantastic that the ACI trials have been successful and it will now be available on the NHS.

“I feel like I’ve been lucky and I hope others get the same chance.”

What do our consultants say?

“ACI can help patients who have a particular defect or early arthritis, one which starts with what appears as a small pothole on the surface of the knee. When the normal, smooth surface is broken in this fashion it may not heal naturally."

“We take a small sample of cartilage out and grow cells up in the lab. These cells are then put back into the patient’s knee in what is a second, bigger operation."

“The patients are usually only in hospital for two days post-operatively, though there is a lot of rehabilitation and physiotherapy to follow after that. The results we have seen have been positive, particularly if the patient has not had prior microfracture."

“For example; a typical patient would be under the age of 40 and would be someone who might have picked up an injury playing football which has led to a chondral defect in their knee that causes pain and is tender on examination."

“This patient would otherwise be healthy, with intact ligaments and a straight leg.”