Cartilage Repair: What's the Right Combination?
This article was originally published in Start Up
START-UP counts some 40 commercial development efforts in cartilage repair and regeneration. Some are implanting synthetic scaffolds, and some are offering cell-based therapies used with or without scaffolds. It's a crowded and confusing category. So many companies are chasing a market that is still somewhat undefined and doesn't seem large enough to support them all. What's clear, however, is that almost 15 years after the introduction of Carticel, the first cell-based implant for cartilage repari, there is still an unsatisified market of patients aged 20-60 with knee pain due to cartilage damage or degeneration.
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The musculoskeletal sector continues to be bogged down by the economic downturn, and particularly hard hit is the industry’s largest segment: the $13 billion total joint market. Companies are now scouting out the next technology wave in orthopedics, and the record attendance at the recent International Cartilage Repair Society meeting may be one indication of where the action will be for some time to come.
Injectable products that can alleviate pain and even reverse the disease process are on the horizon for treating degenerative orthopedic and spinal conditions, such as damaged articular joint cartilage and deteriorated spinal discs. With no available long-term treatment options for these conditions short of invasive surgical procedures like joint replacement or spinal fusion, injectable technologies that offer the possibility of being used upstream in the continuum of care are potential billion-dollar market opportunities. In fact, in a post health care reform environment, injectable therapies may prove to be the most cost-effective way for treating many degenerative conditions.