Health Matters: Cell Therapy Knee Repair

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- A Little Rock woman with a knee injury is among the first in the area to receive a new cell therapy treatment.

What makes this procedure so unique is it uses your own cells to repair your injury. 

Bending the knee would’ve been painful for Jennifer James last year. 

“When I would step, it was just a constant pain, very sharp pain that didn’t go away,” said James.

She twisted her knee and got injection treatment for about three years. After she experienced a fall, the pain was unbearable. Doctors found she was missing a piece of cartilage in her knee. 

“My quality of life was not great, and so that sort of spurred me to go and have the surgery,” James said.

The surgery went great. Jennifer can walk without pain again, thanks to new technology, called “MACI”.

“That this could prolong my need for knee replacement surgery for up to 25 years, and that sold me,” said James.

Doctors take cartilage cells out of your knee. They’re sent to a lab, where they’re grown and expanded to make millions of cartilage cells. 

Then, they’re grown into a patch, a collagen membrane, that is transplanted back in the knee, where it will essentially repair itself.

Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Kirk Reynolds says,”Not use scar tissue or donor cartilage, but use their own cartilage and avoid them needing a knee replacement which historically has been the only option for dealing with really large cartilage defects in the knee”.

Dr. Reynolds has been using “MACI” for a little over a year when the FDA approved the procedure. He did 15 transplants last year. He’s on track to do up to 30 implants this year.

“I personally see this exploding,” Dr. Reynolds says, “We’re seeing such faster recovery, such faster results”.

Dr. Reynolds says orthopedics is trying to move toward using your own body to heal yourself. That in itself is an appealing method to patients like Jennifer, who are afraid to go the surgery route.

“It’s been life-changing for me,” she says. 

This is a two surgery process. You can go home the day of surgery. 

Physical therapy and rehabilitation are critical to the success of this surgery.

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