Getting a Leg Up on Knee Cartilage Repair with ProChon Biotech

kneesExercise may be great for the body, but it also carries the potential for sports injuries. We regularly hear about professional athletes undergoing surgery for torn ligaments, broken bones, and cartilage tears. Cartilage, the rubbery connective tissue that acts as a cushion between joints, can be injured fairly easily. Knee cartilage is particularly vulnerable to injury. According to the Mayo Clinic, almost one third of Americans over the age of 45 reports some type of knee pain.

Both cartilage repair and knee replacement are big businesses. Approximately 650,000 procedures are performed in the U.S. each year to treat cartilage injuries. In addition, approximately 581,000 knee replacement procedures are performed annually in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. The majority of procedures are repeat treatments, which highlights the clinical need to improve upon current treatment methods.

The market for medical implants is expected to grow in the future, prompted by advances in implant technology as well as the aging Baby Boomer population’s desire to remain physically active even in old age. However, medical implants of all kinds have a major hurdle to overcome: The patient’s body may reject the implant. Rejection may occur in certain patients if the implant is derived from animal sources such as cows or pigs.

A procedure called autologous chondrocyte implantation, which uses the patient’s own cartilage-producing cells (autologous chondrocytes) to repair damaged cartilage, has gained popularity in clinical circles. By extracting these cells, culturing them, and implanting them back into the damaged area, scientists hope to promote cartilage regeneration. However, the procedure may still utilize animal sources in the preparation of the implant.

One company seeking to improve upon current techniques for autologous chondrocyte implantation is ProChon Biotech, a Woburn, Mass.-based company specializing in biocompatible technology for joint cartilage repair. ProChon‘s lead product is BioCart, a second-generation tissue regeneration implant for the treatment of joint cartilage defects and injuries. The BioCart system entails removing patients’ own chondrocytes via arthroscopic biopsy and expanding them in the presence of proprietary growth factors that are free of animal-derived components. The cells are then placed on a 3-D scaffold, to be implanted into the cartilage injury site using a minimally invasive procedure. From the time of biopsy to implantation, the entire process takes two to three weeks. The implant is designed to provide long-term restoration of the knee cartilage, shortened recovery time compared to other cartilage repair procedures, and improved quality of life. A Phase II clinical trial of BioCart is underway.

ProChon is scheduled to present at the OneMedForum San Francisco 2011, to take place in January. For more information on the conference, please visit

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