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HKSTP’s Advancements in Regenerative Medicine

Image Credits: HKSTP, Press Release
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Two partner companies associated with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) have announced a collaborative effort to launch a regenerative medical project centred around Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) biology.

The project aims to address the increasing demand for osteoarthritis treatments in Hong Kong due to its ageing population. Osteoarthritis patients commonly suffer from joint pain, swelling, and “cracking” sounds in their bones, which can make simple tasks like climbing stairs unbearable. The prevalence of joint pain issues is significant, affecting nearly 17% of men and almost 24% of women aged 50 or above in the region.

The current non-surgical management of degenerative arthritis often involves the use of hyaluronic acid or corticosteroid injections, which may not be suitable for all patients. Surgical treatment primarily involves artificial joint replacement. However, the Hospital Authority has reported a considerable backlog of nearly 35,000 cases on the waiting list for full joint replacement surgeries in Hong Kong.

The rapid progress in regenerative medical technology offers promising possibilities for addressing osteoarthritis treatment. Currently, non-surgical management for osteoarthritis involves the use of hyaluronic acid or corticosteroid injections, but their suitability for all patients is uncertain, and concerns exist regarding potential side effects like cataracts, glaucoma, hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis associated with corticosteroids.

Surgical intervention often entails artificial joint replacement, but with almost 35,000 patients on the joint replacement waiting list in Hong Kong, suffering can persist while waiting. Moreover, artificial joints have a limited lifespan of around 20 years, necessitating careful consideration by doctors before treatment selection.

The advancement in regenerative medical technology has shown promise through the use of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) for repairing degenerated joints, offering hope for osteoarthritis patients. MSCs can be sourced from various tissues such as bone marrow, the umbilical cord, and adipose tissue. Their functions include differentiation, proliferation, and tissue repair, making them a potential breakthrough in cellular therapy.

Currently, two methods of using stem cells are being explored. One involves harvesting a patient’s own stem cells from adipose tissue, culturing them outside the body, and reintroducing them to facilitate tissue repair. However, the high cost of this approach limits its accessibility to some patients.

The second and more promising method involves extracting MSCs from umbilical cords, subjecting them to cell culture and stringent quality testing in Japan, and then reintroducing them to the affected areas to promote tissue repair.

Stem cells’ ability to release secretome and extracellular vesicles during cultivation enhances various factors involved in tissue repair and regeneration, including cell proliferation and immune and inflammatory responses. These technological advancements offer new possibilities for effectively managing osteoarthritis and improving patients’ quality of life.

HKSTP’s “Medtech Co-Create” initiative brought together the two partner companies for a significant press conference named “Advancing Stem Cell Therapy: A Journey of Collaboration and Innovation” at Hong Kong Science Park. Supported by HKSTP, the two companies unveiled joint projects focused on regenerative medicine.

Their collaboration aims to raise public awareness about the potential of regenerative medicine while fostering its development in Hong Kong. Ultimately, the shared objective is to offer patients a secure, efficient, and minimally invasive treatment alternative through their efforts.

The CEO of HKSTP stated the organisation’s commitment to building a thriving world-class biomedical technology ecosystem in Hong Kong. He described the collaboration as exciting, as it aims to develop progressive treatments in regenerative medicine technology for the benefit of patients and to promote groundbreaking innovation in the biomedical industry. HKSTP is home to over 200 biotech companies, and the MTCC Programme fosters collaboration between park companies and corporate partners to elevate Hong Kong’s status as a leading global innovation hub.

The Head of the Institute for Translational Research of HKSTP highlighted the scope of the HKSTP MedTech Co-Create platform, which encompasses a vast network of partner companies and researchers covering various fields, including Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine.

The platform’s goal is to build a comprehensive healthcare system that provides holistic applications for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and rehabilitation, fostering a patient-centric culture and delivering innovative Advanced Therapy Products.

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