Good News for Bad Knees

By Shlomo Maital


Surgeons Inserting a Cartiheal Device

   A great many people, especially the elderly, need hip and knee replacements. One million such replacements are done annually in the US. The operation has become common, ever since the May Clinic pioneered it in 1971. Some 7.2 million Americans are living today with knee and hip implants. Those numbers grow, as Americans age.

   There is no doubt that replacing worn knee and hip joints has given many far better quality of life. But there are also problems associated with implants. There can be infection, and the replacement joints can wear out, requiring another painful operation; many elderly people are not quite up to that.

     Now comes a team of creative Israeli researchers. A startup called CartiHeal has developed an implant known as Agili-C, that replaces human cartilage and induces torn and worn cartilage to rebuild and regrow. In the past few days, the first surgery in Israel to insert the implant was done at Hadassah Medical Center, Mt. Scopus, Israel (see photo). The surgery was done by Dr. Adi Friedman, head of arthroscopic surgery for sport injuries.   Friedman said:

     “The need for an implant that can foster regrowth of cartilage that has been damaged is a real medical need, the world of orthopedic surgery has been anxiously awaiting it. We hope our experiment will succeed, and that the implant will become a breakthrough that we have awaited for many years!”

     CartiHeal is an Israeli startup founded by Nir Altschuler in 2009, in cooperation with Ben Gurion University. The CartiHeal implant has CE approval in Europe (their equivalent of America’s FDA) and will soon begin clinical trials for FDA approval.

     The CartiHeal cartilage implant has been used widely in Europe, treating some 400 patients with success. By getting the knee or hip to regenerate its own cartilage, the need for a replacement implant (when the artificial knee or hip joint wears out) is obviated. And of course, the body’s own cartilage is far superior to that of an artificial implant.

       CartiHeal’s website opens the possibility of joining a clinical trial.