Long-suffering people with chronically sore ankles, knees, or elbows try everything from ice to physical therapy to surgery to bring relief to their aching body parts.
But researchers delving more deeply into the problem have found that a better solution may lie in a surprising location – the person’s own hair.
Certain cells in the hair follicles are good at producing collagen, a protein that helps strengthen tendons. Those cells can be replicated and then injected into an injured tendon where they will get busy repairing damaged tendon tissue.
“Nothing is more natural than using your own cells to treat your own ailments,” says Lee Buckler, president and CEO of RepliCel Life Sciences, a Canadian company that has conducted clinical trials to accomplish the follicle-to-tendon cellular procedure.
Sometimes those ankle, knee, and elbow pains aren’t that serious and a little rest brings the necessary relief. But sometimes the problem is more long-lasting, such as tendinosis, a more chronic form of tendon injury that’s been known to sideline even professional athletes.
Usually, when someone suffers from tendinosis, traditional treatments include medication, rest, physical therapy or – if there is a tear in the tissue – surgery.
“But there’s no therapy that treats the underlying cause of the condition,” Buckler says. “We believe our approach is capable of addressing that underlying state of the tendon’s disrepair – the deterioration of the tendon tissue – by stimulating more effective tendon regeneration, resulting in a permanent cure.”
Here’s how the treatment they are developing works:
• Those cells in the hair follicle are isolated by taking a small tissue sample from the back of the scalp.
• The cells are replicated and then reintroduced into the wounds in the tendon using an ultrasound-guided injection.
• These newly introduced, collagen-producing cells stimulate tendon regeneration in the damaged area, alleviating the pain and restoring the function to the previously damaged tendon.
That can be a welcome relief for those who have seen their quality of life deteriorate right along with their tendons.
“A lot of people have had to stop running or playing sports because of a damaged tendon in their ankle, knee, or elbow.” Buckler says. “Just getting around and handling normal daily chores can be extraordinarily painful for them. This procedure can change their lives for the better and we are moving forward as quickly as possible through the rest of our clinical trials to get this approved and available to them.”