No matter your age, when cartilage begins to wear out around your knees and become damaged, it can limit movement and cause severe pain.
Now, a new technique using stem cells from donor umbilical cords could help young patients rebuild cartilage and reduce pain.
For Jim Hackett, chasing after his young son Jimmy has not been easy.
“I figured, you know, two years down the road, I want to be able to run around with him, play ball with him,” Hackett said. “At the rate I was going, that wasn’t going to happen.”
Years as a police officer had taken a toll on Hackett’s knees.
"It just gets to the point where your knee just says enough and you end up with cartilage problems," Hackett said.
Doctor Brian Cole of the Rush Cartilage Restoration Center is using stem cells to repair cartilage.
“Several small holes are made into the bone to make it bleed intentionally,” Cole said. “In that blood is our own body's stem cells that lay down fibrocartilage or scar cartilage."
Then stem cells from umbilical cord blood are mixed with hyaluronic acid, a building block of cartilage.
“The hope is through acting as a regulator, in that area, they can actually improve the healing response," Cole said.
Now Hackett is back on his feet, and its helping him keep up with little Jimmy.
“Knees are great,” Hackett said. “I'm able to kneel now and before, prior to surgery, I wasn't able to do that"
The therapy has been approved in South Korea and preliminary reports in the United States are promising. The best candidates are people under age 45 with some localized areas of cartilage damage.
The treatment is not meant for older patients with arthritis or in place of a knee replacement.