Israeli CartiHeal cracks the code on growing new knee cartilage

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It’s a disaster for athletes and non-athletes alike. Knee injuries, particularly torn cartilage, typically set back people’s mobility for the rest of their lives. Cartilage has low blood flow, so growing new tissue is virtually impossible without surgery. Common surgery on related meniscal cartilage around the base of the knee was shown to have mixed results and might be no better than physical therapy in many cases.

CartiHeal might have cracked the code for fixing that problem.

The seven-year-old Israeli marvel announced on Monday that it scored $15 million in new money from investors led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Returning investors include Elron, Accelmed, Access Medical Ventures, and Peregrine Ventures.

CartiHeal’s Agili-C product is a scaffold that fits in place of damaged cartilage within the knee. The scaffold is made of biodegradable material that allows new cells to grow in its place. Their studies claim significant growth of hyaline cartilage and its underlying subchondral bone, plus a major reduction in localized pain.

They already have over 200 European patients and CE approval.

“The device is suitable for a wide range of pathologies from focal traumatic lesions to moderate stages of osteoarthritis,” Nir Altschuler, Founder & CEO of CartiHeal, explained. “We believe that it will provide a good solution for a vast unmet need, especially for patients with osteoarthritis who do not respond to conservative treatment.”

More conservative treatment often refers to grafting transplant cartilage or microfracture: the drilling of small holes in nearby bone to allow for nutriment-rich blood to simply bleed out on the blood-deficient cartilage. Markets and Markets, which will publish a new report on the cartilage regeneration industry next month, estimated a $300 million value for the market in 2014.

The company was founded by CEO Nir Altschuler at Ben Gurion University. They are headquartered in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba.

Featured image credit: Becky Stern / Flickr

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