In a pioneering technology of its kind, the Australian researchers at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, have been successful in treating the patients with broken legs with their own stem cells. In this experiment, the patients with serious leg fractures have regrown thigh and shin bones, recovering quickly with very little pain.

The technology allows the most severe leg breaks - which can sometimes lead to amputation - to heal more quickly. Patients in the trial found their bones had regrown within an average of four months.Elite athletes who suffer leg breaks may also benefit by cutting down recovery time. The stem cell treatment experiment involve nine patients who had suffered the worst kind of fractures.

Take the example of Anthony Giancola who broke the bones in his lower leg in a motorbike accident on New Year’s Eve 2005.The 36-year-old’s injuries were so severe that bone poked through his jeans when paramedics arrived at the scene. Up to 15% of such fractures never fully heal. Mr Giancola was admitted to the hospital earlier but his situation was not improving. Only then he was recruited to the trial and had bone marrow stem cells harvested from his pelvis in a non-invasive day procedure using a needle.

The cells were then grown in a laboratory, reproducing countless times to create 15 billion cells in six weeks. This allowed surgeons to conduct an operation to administer the stem cells to the fracture sites, where they began to form bone. Mr Giancola was walking the following day. He is now fully recovered, pain-free and regularly runs and plays football.

Orthopedic surgeon Richard de Steiger, who led the trial, said, “Most of the time you have to have a secondary operation on the hip bone and take some bone graft out and that’s often more painful than the surgery for the actual fracture. All these patients have avoided the need for having a second operation to get bone from somewhere else in the body. Instead the bone’s just grown outside the body in a lab.”

Source: The Age