Researchers at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, are focused on innovative, less invasive treatment methods for those sustaining injuries on the battlefield as well as at home.
Post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) is considered the number one cause of disability for the U.S. military. But many combat-related injuries do not receive proper medical treatment. Stem cells could help these injuries heal. However, on the battlefield, setting up a stem cell transplantation program is nearly impossible.
Kevin Baker, Ph.D., director of Beaumont Hospital - Royal Oak orthopedic research laboratories, has been awarded a $260,000 Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program grant to study post-traumatic osteoarthritis. The grant will fund pre-clinical research to develop a stem cell-based therapy that could delay or eliminate the onset of cartilage degeneration following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear or sprain, a common knee injury. Current methods of using stem cells are expensive and labor-intensive for this kind of treatment.
Beaumont researchers are developing a method to allow doctors to use a patient’s own stem cells without ever processing them outside of the body. This kind of treatment could help military personnel, and other members of the community, receive the help they need quicker.
Baker is also part of a research team working on a plastic derived from cornstarch combined with montmorillonite clay, which is found in volcanic ash. Indigenous cultures and healers have used montmorillonite clay for centuries as an internal and external healing agent. This plastic is intended to help heal the bones of patients with orthopedic injuries who need bone replacement.
Traditional bone graft procedures require surgeons to remove bone from another part of the patient’s body to heal the affected area and encourage new bone growth. Harvesting a patient’s bone can result in complications at the harvest site.
Eliminating the need to harvest bone and performing only one surgery using the synthetic material would help reduce related complications.
Unlike current procedures, which often require a metal or plastic implant for added strength, the synthetic material doesn’t require additional hardware placed in the patient’s body.
According to Baker, this improves outcomes for the patient because internal hardware can result in infection and can complicate magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) imaging tests.