Good news for knees

In a groundbreaking advance, a novel Israeli implant provides a scaffold for the body to regenerate true joint-protecting cartilage.

CartiHeal’s cartilage regeneration solution could save many patients from joint replacement surgery. Image via Shutterstock.com

CartiHeal’s cartilage regeneration solution could save many patients from joint replacement surgery. Image via Shutterstock.com

If you get a cut, break a bone or scrape an elbow, your bloodstream brings the injury all the necessary nutrients for healing. But if your cartilage gets damaged, you’re out of luck. This flexible soft tissue that cushions joints – especially in the knee – has no blood vessels and therefore little ability to heal itself.

However, a privately held Israeli medical device company is now offering a safe and effective, novel off-the-shelf cartilage regeneration solution in a global market worth an estimated $1.6 billion annually.

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CartiHeal’s trademarked Agili-C can be implanted in a single-step arthroscopic procedure. In clinical studies, it was shown to regenerate true hyaline cartilage (the most abundant type of cartilage in the human body) after six months.

Founder and CEO Nir Altschuler tells ISRAEL 21c that this is a breakthrough in the field — the “Holy Grail” in orthopedics — because other experimental treatments generate only “hyaline-like” cartilage, which is actually a non-lasting fibrous tissue rather than the real deal.

“Our clinical results, to date, confirm rapid cartilage and bone formation, as clearly visible on MRIs and X-rays,” says Altschuler. “Patients are reporting significant improvement in pain level and return to normal function, including sports.”

The implant has earned the European Union’s CE Mark of approval, and the company is currently running post-marketing clinical studies at leading centers in Europe.

Cartilage can’t self-repair

There are approximately 1.2 million cartilage repair procedures performed annually worldwide, and these surgeries mainly aim for pain relief since it hasn’t been possible until now to regenerate true hyaline cartilage.

Altschuler says Agili-C has the potential to heal the problem at an early stage and halt further joint degeneration, and therefore might have the potential to prevent the need for more radical procedures, such as knee replacement, down the road.

The implant provides a scaffold that enables stem cells to climb up from the bone marrow, form vessels within the scaffold and regenerate tissue, Altschuler explains.

Within a few months, the top layer becomes cartilage while the bottom layer becomes bone – each identical to the body’s own tissues. The regenerated cells gradually dissolve the implanted scaffold and the joints are nearly as good as normal.

The first patient to receive Agili-C was a 47-year-old Slovenian man, a former athlete whose knee cartilage was damaged due to a volleyball injury six years before the June 2011 surgery. Unable to enjoy sports, he suffered on and off from knee swelling and pain.

Six months after receiving the Agili-C implant, the patient was on the ski slopes. A year from his surgery, he completed a 180K cycling marathon, according to company officials.

“The X-ray and MRI images are promising,” says Altschuler. “At six months you can see signs of cartilage formation and at a year it is nearly fully regenerated. The newly formed cartilage is hyaline cartilage, the body’s native cartilage, distinguished by its specific type of collagen.”

Altschuler founded CartiHeal in 2009 as a portfolio company of Peregrine Ventures’ Incentive Technological Incubator. Today, CartiHeal is backed by a recent financing round of up to $10 million from Accelmed, Access Medical Ventures and Elron.

*Image via Shutterstock.com

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About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.
  • marion pipkin

    sounds like a winner, will it work for bone to bone pain at the wrist joint of the thumb?

    • berele

      I have a hip problem
      can it rejuvenate the cartalege on the hip too?
      which clinic in Israel is using this new procedure?
      I’m willing to have the treatment done in Israel if it is available
      please reply to robert@embix.com

  • marion pipkin

    sounds like a winner, will it work for the thumb joint at the wrist?

  • marion pipkin

    Will this CartiHeal  do the job for bone to bone contact for the thumb joint at the wrist?

  • Shirley Bridges

    I need this operation on both Knees. It would be the answer to all my pain.How do I go about getting it?
    Shirley Brookner@gmail.co.uk

  • Monty Pogoda

    I would very much like to get the email
     address of Carti Heal. please send it to me.
    Thanks
    Monty Pogoda.

  • Saundra27

    Sign me up! How much does this cost? Is it available now? If my knees get really bad as most peoples after overuse,or injuries i would like to help my mother and other relatives who have knee problems.

  • mmkamil

    I too would be interested in receiving more info on whether this could be used in the wrist, and quite urgently. mmorriskamil@gmail.com, michal. With thanks.

  • Nathan

    At what stage in degeneration of the cartilage can this procedure be done? Will be in Israel in May, would love to visit and discuss procedure and determine whether I am a candidate.

    Nathan

  • Patricia

    More info please.

  • madhav tonapi

    is it possible to get this implant done in India?

  • runnbear

    My knee cartilage is wearing thin and a couple of small tears show in an MRI scan. I’ve had a few bouts with pain and swelling and expect more will come along as the remaining cartilage wears even thinner. This sounds like the best possible way to fix the problem with a minimum of disturbance to the joints. Would like to see more detailed information on the procedure, status of clinical trials and info on who to contact about having it done.

    • Alden Smith

      Hey I would suggest the company and see about it as well as going over there for Medical tourism

  • Margaret

    I would like more information concerning the suitability of this procedure for a 74 year old female with worn cartilage problems in both knees

  • taylor

    I would like this done…Any contact info would be great
    taylor_christensen@hotmail.ca

  • MariaPiou

    I am 45 years old with osteoarthritis.. For the past 5-10 years, every couple of months I read about good news, breakthroughs and stuff.. But in the end nothing. Take this study for example: http://goo.gl/hCVUg

    It’s been three years and no there is no update on that “breaktrhough” treatment

    I am sure the same will happen with Agili-C.. Big words and a few years later nothing..

    I guess the money from knee arthroplasties are too good to allow real treatments that actually regenerate cartilage..

  • Alden Smith

    This right here would be a lifesaver for the sports industry, the military and people in general.

  • jade

    The status of this procedure is here as well as the contact info…

    http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01471236

  • miru

    please send me email about the cost and procedure..

    my_lawprofile@yahoo.com.ph

  • zeidgeist

    Naturally not to be used by BDS morons.

  • kcad1

    my wife needs both knees replaced and is looking for ways to avoid this .where can this be done and what is the cost. my son at 38 years old has had both knees replaced do to RA and my wife has seen how long it takes to recover.