For those suffering from osteoarthritis or knee injuries, a new technology may help you move better and have less pain. Agili-C is a cartilage and bone regeneration device that actually helps your body regrow on its own.
Cartilage is a flexible soft tissue between joints that helps bones move smoothly. It is found in virtually every joint. Over time, it wears down, and the bones can actually grind together as they move, which can be very painful and decrease mobility.
Unfortunately, once cartilage wears away, it generally does not grow back. It cannot self-heal like other parts of the body because it does not have blood vessels.
With Agili-C, however, cartilage can grow back around a scaffold that is implanted onto the affected joint. The scaffold is biodegradable, so as cells grow around it, it will simply disappear over time. The treatment is specifically designed to help those with mid-level osteoarthritis-where they do not quite need a joint replacement, but conservative treatments are not very effective.
Traditional Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis
Joint damage in the ankles and feet can be debilitating. Over time wear and tear of the cartilage and bones, otherwise known as osteoarthritis, causes swelling and pain. It can also decrease flexibility and result in stiffness. Ultimately, it affects your ability to put weight on your feet and reduces your overall mobility.
Traditionally, osteoarthritis is treated using a variety of methods, including the following non-surgical interventions.
- Steroid injections
- Pain relievers
- Arch supports or padding for shoes
- Inserts to support the ankle and foot
- Physical therapy
- Weight control
- Customized shoes
- Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling
Surgery is not uncommon for those with severe osteoarthritis. Generally, your foot surgeon will recommend one of two kinds of surgery. The first option is a fusion, which involves putting pins, screws, plates, or rods into the foot. The process permanently stiffens the joints in an effort to decrease pain and increase mobility. However, just like any surgery, there are risks with a foot fusion. The fusion may fail based on a variety of factors, or other complications may arise.
The other more traditional option is to have a complete joint replacement surgery. The joints in the ankle are replaced with an artificial implant. This type of surgery is only used in rare, serious cases.
How Agili-C May Change Treatment for Osteoarthritis
Agili-C offers a way for the body to regrow cartilage essentially on its own. The scaffold is implanted, and, over time, the body naturally replaces it with new hyaline cartilage and bone. The process takes about six to 12 months. Studies have been very successful, and patients have also indicated a reduction in pain as well.
The company that has produced the new product, CariHeal, an Israeli company, has specifically noted that it can be an effective way to treat moderate stages of osteoarthritis. It may be particularly useful for those who have not responded to conservative treatment. The surgical procedure is far less dramatic than more tradition osteoarthritis surgeries.
So far, roughly 200 patients have received the treatment with favorable results. Most of the testing has been on the knee, but the same concept would likely be helpful for the ankle and the big toe as well.
Moving Forward with Development
Clinical trials are now expanding thanks to a $15 million investment from Johnson & Johnson Innovation. The new product has several other investors as well.
The FDA has now approved the device for study in the United States, which means that an additional 250 patients will try out the new technology. Assuming the study goes well, Agili-C could be on the market in the United States in just a few years. Those with osteoarthritis will be an integral part of the study.
Big changes that lead to more effective treatments may be on the horizon for those with knee problems and osteoarthritis.