When a new tissue repair technology becomes available it is usually based upon some good animal results and a fair amount of science — but that does not mean (unfortunately) that the product will meet the need of real, live human beings. So it is with great satisfaction (so far) that I can say the first results of Denovo NT cartilage repair look quite good. This judgement is based upon MRI exams and function and return to sport. This procedure uses juvenile donor cartilage cells, and it is basically like doing tissue culture inside the human body. There is no graft rejection with these young cells, so tissue matching is not necessary.
Denovo NT is an outpatient procedure, performed through a small incision. The post op rehab depends upon where the cartilage problem is, so some patients can weight bear early and some have to be on crutches for about a month.
Denovo NT costs less than 1/10th of what Carticel transplants cost, at least for areas up to 2.5 sq. cm. At present rates it is about $4300 per pack. Some insurance companies are quite forward thinking about this and cover it; some do not. There is always a process, with new procedures, where insurance companies must be convinced of the merit of a new technique, and we are well into that process now.
The promise of this technology is that we are using living cells that can make new cartilage — better cartilage than the patient’s own DNA (which is considerably older) can make. Stay tuned for more long term results.