Pluristem Carving Out Distinct Niche in Orthopedic Medicine With New Clinical Trials in Rotator Cuff Repair

Pluristem Carving Out Distinct Niche in Orthopedic Medicine With New Clinical 
Trials in Rotator Cuff Repair 
LOS ANGELES, CA -- (Marketwired) -- 05/08/13 --  Pluristem (NASDAQ:
PSTI) recently announced a new Phase I trial to check safety and
evaluate effectiveness of its PLX-PAD cells in chronic tendonitis
often leading to rotator cuff disorders, common in tennis players and
golfers, where there are roughly 200,000 rotator cuff surgeries done
each year in the US alone. Major insurers put the overall cost of
rotator cuff operations at $6,700 each, with a lucrative $1,700 in
doctor fees, draining our health care system of over $1.3 billion.
Although cell therapy is not commonly associated with sports medicine
procedures, it's time something new is tried to take down costs of
these pricey procedures, something that doesn't involve dangerous
devices or daily pill-popping. 
Stem cell treatments are usually associated with serious diseases
like cancer and chronic heart conditions, but have recently taken on
the glamour of a potential quick-fix in the world of sports, causing
celebrity athletes like Jason Kidd of the NY Knicks or NBA All-Star
Allan Houston to seek them out in hopes of fast recoveries and better
performance. Ethical considerations were bypassed when it became
possible to use adult stem cells from fat, bone marrow or, even
better, the birth placenta, rather than the embryo of an unborn
child. The Catholics breathed easier.  
In the past, academic institutions produced only spotty research for
using cell therapy in sports and there have been no meaningful
clinical trials targeting the human stem cell to treat sports
medicine injuries. Dr. Jason Dragoo, top orthopedic surgery professor
at the Stanford School of Medicine, spoke out last year to Sports
Illustrated about the false hopes given to athletes by stem cell
charlatans responding to pressure from owners, coaches and team
He didn't have an answer then, but Pluristem may have one now. 
Like all of the company's studies, the one for rotator cuff injuries
is small and efficient, just 30 patients with only a six-month
follow-up. If successful, we imagine third-party payors will be
thrilled to recommend Pluristem's procedure over the expensive
Fixing damaged rotator cuffs w
ith cell therapy is a great addition to
Pluristem's growing niche in orthopedic medicine, blending well with
ground-breaking clinical trials in hip replacement that we wrote
about last August. The global market for artificial hips runs around
$5 billion with no end in sight for growth as the world population
ages and puts on weight. Companies that make devices for hip repair
continue to prosper but the flip side is the heavy litigation of the
industry -- watch late-night cable and you can't miss an ad for
plaintiffs wanting to sue DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson company, where
it was recently reported the number of lawsuits are over 4,000. 
As we also observed back in August, Pluristem's platform technology
in just that one indication could open up more opportunities within
the huge $2.2 billion sports medicine market. In less than a year,
that promise looks to become a reality. 
A check with our orthopedic physician contacts revealed that hopes
for stem cell therapy in sports medicine was originally pinned on
repairing and restoring injured cartilage, particularly because such
a treatment would have far-reaching medical promise for arthritis.
Then came monoclonal antibodies, like the now widely-used Humira by
Abbott Laboratories, and for a time stem cells in orthopedics was
forgotten. Pluristem's new trials in shoulders, along with hips,
target two major joints in the human anatomy that take on a lot of
strain in active individuals, and should grab much attention as
results from the studies are publicized. 
All told, a great call for Pluristem. Medically, they are going after
high-cost, high growth markets where orthopedic doctors are
considered the tinkerers of hands-on surgeons. These practitioners
love to experiment and their own hospital departments are usually
second only to cardiology in pulling in big numbers. From a global
marketing standpoint, the choice of branching out into sports
medicine is brilliant. Pluristem has demographics in their favor and
with healthcare economics in a never-ending downward spiral, a new
and less invasive treatment with PLX-PAD cells offering reduced
post-operative downtime will be the way healthcare insurers (and
patients) want to go. 
Disclosure: None 
The complete version of this report by Ray Dirks of Ray Dirks
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