Treating Fractures with Stem Cells Speeds Up Healing Process

Research conducted by Hadassah's Department of Orthopedics has proven that using stem cells to treat severe fractures can speed up the healing process.

An article, recently published in the medical journal “Molecular Therapy”, has scientifically proven that the injection of stem cells into severe fractures significantly speeds up recovery.

The article details the research and clinical trial conducted over the past four years by the doctors of the Orthopedic Departments at Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. The research was led by Prof. Iri Liebergall, Head of Orthopedics at Hadassah.

“A process that began 15 years ago eventually led to this clinical trial at Hadassah, the first of its kind in Israel. The trial included twenty-four patients with severe Pelvis fractures,” said Prof. Liebergall, “This research is a medical breakthrough.  Publication of this study and its findings will most likely change the currently accepted principles of treating complicated fractures. Now, we face the challenge of understanding this healing mechanism and how it works.”

Four years ago, the Orthopedic Department at Hadassah began a clinical trial where  fractures, which tend to heal slowly or not at all, were repaired with the help of the patient's blood system and bone marrow. This treatment is based on the use of stem cells taken from the pelvic area in close proximity to the injury. The cells undergo a process of designated isolation and re-injected into the fracture site.

Medical literature identifies certain fractures which require surgical treatment and have a long, ongoing recovery process. Sometimes, these fractures do not recover and further surgical intervention is required. This is caused by a number of reasons, some of which are connected to the injury mechanism. Other reasons include the anatomical structure of the fracture site. For example, the distal tibia, used in this study, is characterized by a scant layer of muscle tissue and bone support tissue, as well as reduced blood supply, all of which make recovery harder.

This innovative treatment is based on Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which havethe potential to become osteoblasts, imperative to the preservation of bone quality and fracture healing.

One month after the initial surgery, following a check-up, patients who participated in this trial underwent a short procedure, under general or local anesthesia. During this procedure, 50 mL of bone marrow and 100 mL of blood were extracted from their pelvic area. The blood and bone marrow were transferred to the laboratories where the mesenchymal stem cells were isolated from the bone marrow and platelets isolated from the blood sample.

The patient was brought back to the operating room, and the surgeon injected a solution of stem cells, platelets and demineralized bone matrix (powder with different proteins that help bone growth) into the injury site.

According to the specialists, this procedure shortened the recovery process from 6-12 months down to 2-3 months. The findings from this research show that these patients can regain functionality and return to their everyday life faster. These findings have economic repercussions, as a patient will lose less work time and require fewer days of sick leave. It opens a window for further research on tissue recovery using complex cellular mechanisms.