BOSTON (CBS) – Americans of all ages suffer from knee pain and stiffness due to cartilage loss. However, a recent FDA approved treatment might bring relief to patients and it is being performed in Boston.

Dr. Mallika Marshall introduces us to Chris, the first patient to undergo the procedure.

Chris suffers from a rare condition called Osteochondritis dissecans, which causes cartilage in his joints to break down.

Chris, who prefers not to use his last name, dealt with knee problems for most of his life, including unbearable pain in his left knee.

“It was quite painful, sports were difficult, and then walking became an issue,” said Chris.

The 33-year-old was too young for a knee replacement surgery but qualified for a new technique called Matrix Autologous Chondrocyte Implant, or MACI.

Chris’s cartilage cells were grown in a lab and placed onto a collagen membrane.

His surgeon cut the membrane to size and filled holes in the cartilage of Chris’s knee, much like filling a pot-hole. Over time those cells would grow and develop into mature cartilage.

“We can basically template, cut and paste the membrane, that’s already preloaded with cells into the base of the defect and just glue it there,” said Dr. Tom Minas, Orthopedic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s hospital.

The technique has been used overseas for years, but the FDA recently approved it in December. Chris was the first patient in the U.S. to receive the treatment.

This procedure could be used to treat thousands of patients who suffer from ACL injuries, early arthritis and cartilage loss in the knee.

“It’s been very easy comparatively,” said Chris, who has received many surgeries in the past.

He looks forward to getting back to his daily and pain-free activities.

After the treatment, patients can return to most activities within a year. They can return to high-impact sports in 18 months.

Conveniently, most insurance companies cover the surgery.

  1. Ann Tobin says:

    I wonder if auto immune disease will eat up the new cartilage in time

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