Star Queenstown ice hockey player Bert Haines says his season’s been saved by treatment at a pioneering local medical facility.
Haines, the Ice Blacks captain, underwent Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment at Queenstown Regenerative Medicine (QRM) to repair two torn ankle ligaments.
The Remarkables Park centre was announced last week as the New Zealand venue for new clinical trials of cutting-edge stem cell therapy.
Both therapies are expected to be used together in the coming years in Queenstown to treat sports injuries and osteoarthritis – with QRM expanded into a full stem cell therapy centre once trials are complete.
“The fact that it uses my own body’s healing properties to repair the ligaments was a huge attraction to me,” 32-year-old Haines says.
“There are no foreign substances involved, just my own blood. Along with a comprehensive physiotherapy programme, it meant I was able to return to full fitness again and have played the whole season.”
The vice-captain of the local team Southern Stampede adds: “I don’t think I would have done that without PRP.”
PRP is a forerunner to stem cell therapy in that it uses the body’s own mechanisms to repair tissue.
Leading Australian academic Professor Richard Boyd, of Melbourne’s Monash University, says his team plans to run stem cell therapy clinical trials in Queenstown and Australia in November.
Boyd says Queenstown is the obvious choice as it’s at the forefront of PRP treatment in NZ.
“PRP is the first step in utilising blood products as opposed to steroids and anti-inflammatories. Platelets are like the blood’s ‘ambu-lance’, packed with over 20 factors which not only cause clotting when needed but can dampen inflammation, reduce pain and may trigger repair.
“They’re effective but kind of limited so one then looks around and says what can we do better and that’s where this world of stem cells opens up.”
The stem cell therapy involves injecting stem cells taken from stomach fat into a patient’s knee.
Boyd says Queenstown also has a plethora of patients through snow sports injuries. Wanaka freeski star Jossi Wells recently revealed he has undergone experimental stem cell surgery on his damaged knees.
“The Queenstown stem cell clinic will be an important player in a multi-centre consortium working in tandem worldwide to improve patients’ lives,” Boyd says.
“It’s an exciting development for Queenstown, NZ and the field of stem cell technology.”
QRM owner and director Marcelle Noble says the centre will offer stem cell treatment, priced up to $9000 a shot, once the trials are complete – leading to a possible boom in medical tourism.