3 Aug 2013

Arthritis therapy using stem cells planned for New Zealand

4:01 pm on 3 August 2013

An Australian stem cell scientist is hoping to bring an experimental treatment for people with osteoarthritis of the knee to New Zealand, and wants to set up clinical trials to prove it works.

The therapy involves injected stem cells into patients' knees, which have been taken from their stomach fat.

Professor Richard Boyd of Monash University in Melbourne, says the therapy has reduced osteoarthritis pain by 90% in almost 12,000 animals, including dogs, cats and horses.

He says his team is in the final stages of seeking official approval to run clinical trials in Australia and will then apply to Medsafe in New Zealand.

Professor Boyd says he hopes to have the therapy available at a sports medicine clinic in Queenstown.

Cautious optimism from Arthritis New Zealand

Arthritis New Zealand meanwhile says it is cautiously optimistic about the experimental stem cell therapy.

There has been criticism from some plastic surgeons and orthopaedic surgeons that the surgery will encourage medical tourism, is still experimental and that not enough is known about its side effects.

However, chief executive of Arthritis New Zealand, Sandra Kirby says Professor Boyd's name lends the project considerable credibility.

She says he's done good work and completed credible research in other areas.

Ms Kirby says it's long been a source of frustration that people can get stem cell treatment for pets with arthritis but not humans.

President of the Association of Plastic Surgery, John DeWaal, says the speed by which the facility is being set up makes it appear the projected is motivated by making money.

Mr DeWaal says many questions are unanswered about the therapy, including whether aggressive cancers could grow in the treated area.