Thursday, April 15, 2004

Army taps isle firm
to regenerate torn ligaments

Current options are to
take tendon from elsewhere
in the body or from a cadaver

The Army has awarded Honolulu firm Tissue Genesis Inc. a $3.7 million grant to find a way to grow new cells that can repair torn ligaments.

"Probably we all know someone with an anterior cruciate ligament (ruptured ligament)," said Paul Kosnik, the firm's vice president of engineering.

Football, basketball and other sports often contribute to ligament injuries, as do normal house and yard work, Kosnik said.

The grant is the second the Army has awarded to the company and brings the total to $8 million. The Army is interested in the work because of its application to military personnel.

Physicians have two options now to replace a torn ligament, Kosnik said. They can take tendon from the knee or somewhere else in the body, or from a cadaver.

"Neither one of those options is very appealing," he said, explaining the recovery process is usually nine to 18 months, and there is no guarantee the ligament will be totally restored. "Most people return to 80 percent and, in some cases, quite a bit less."

The Tissue Genesis program is aimed at growing a new ligament outside the body, Kosnik said.

This would avoid taking a "perfectly working tendon" from somewhere else in the body, he said.

He said Tissue Genesis, on the 11th floor of the former Gold Bond Building at 677 Ala Moana, is in the concept stage, looking at different sources to obtain cells for new ligaments.

"The ultimate goal would be a noninvasive biopsy," he said, noting some evidence that a ligament could be grown from cells in a little pinch of skin.

Another possibility, he said, is to grow a new ligament from cells in broken tissue when doctors reconstruct a ligament.

Experiments will be done mostly in Hawaii with commercially available cells, Kosnik said. Once it is determined whether human cells could be engineered into a functional ligament, Kosnik said, the next step would be to do this in animals and then with a person's own cells.

Anton Krucky, Tissue Genesis president, said the latest Army grant recognizes the company's ability "to take high-potential scientific ideas to a practical and clinical usability."


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