Pet Surgery Could Change Knee Replacement in Humans
COLUMBIA - Researchers at MU are working to replace artificial joints with actual donor knees.
It's all because current technology, such as metal and plastic joint replacements, are not a good match for human joints.
"Total joint replacement with metal and plastic is the best of what we have. But it's not normal. It's not perfect. And so, we really wanted to find a solution to that," said Dr. James Cook, a veterinarian at MU's animal hospital.
Dr. Cook teamed up with his biologist colleague, Aaron Stoker, and began researching other solutions for joint replacements. That's when they came up with the "total biologic joint replacement theory." Before this process, humans could receive portions of a donor knee. But so far, it is not possible to take an entire donor knee and give it to someone in need. That's because the cells can't last long enough for doctors to get the knee put in and have it take to the patient's leg.
The team has worked on proving its success since. To do so, they've come up with a new way to store tissue and make it a better match for patients. In fact, they've nearly doubled the shelf life of which tissue can stay viable.
At first, they performed total joint replacements in mice, and then rabbits. Then they met Buddy, a dog who needed this surgery to survive.
Buddy, a horseback field trial dog and multiple-time champion, was at a competition when his leg got stuck in a root system of a tree. It tore his ACL so severely that his vet couldn't repair the muscle. His owners, Jerry and Sharon Hailey, took Buddy to three more vets, who couldn't perform the surgery either.
Then they met Dr. Cook, who was willing to try his breakthrough surgery on a larger animal. Lucky for Buddy and the Haileys, the surgery was a success. And now Buddy's proving to the medical community that this surgery might one day be feasible in human patients as well.
In fact, Dr. James Stannard at MU's Orthopaedic Institute has teamed with with Dr. Cook and Stoker to figure out how to perform the surgery in humans.
"We're in the process right now of translating those from the animal to the human - and that transition is really more research proof than how to do it. We know how to do it," said Stannard, whose already got a list of people waiting to have this surgery.
All that's left is to perform tests to get the FDA to back it.