As a soccer player for the University of Illinois, Rachel constantly pushed herself. Being active was crucial to her lifestyle both on and off the soccer field. She was also passionate about medicine, but didn’t know yet that she would eventually be on both sides of the operating table.
After a partial lateral meniscus tear put her on the sidelines, she underwent an arthroscopic partial lateral meniscectomy. She returned to soccer and her pre-injury level of play until she tore her remaining meniscus.
Her pain subsided after an arthroscopic procedure to have the non-viable tissue removed, but then her knee issues returned.
“Being unable to remain physically fit, or lead an active lifestyle, became a huge problem for me,” she said. “As sports and fitness, particularly soccer, were such huge components of my life, I was extremely frustrated with my knee.”
When Rachel met with Dr. Brian Cole of Rush University Medical Center, she learned she was a candidate for a meniscus transplant. Since donor meniscus tissue is matched to the recipient by size, she was placed on a waiting list. Three weeks before starting medical school, she received her match.
In addition to balancing her recovery and a strict physical therapy regimen, Rachel focused on medical school. She also began running again and completed the Chicago Triathlon in 2008.
Throughout the course of medical school, Rachel’s experience with allograft transplantation stayed with her and would eventually help shape the course of her career.
“As a direct reflection of my fascination with musculoskeletal function laid against the backdrop of my own patient experiences, I pursued a yearlong Orthopaedic Research Fellowship within the Division of Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center,” she explained.
During her research year, Rachel started training for and subsequently completed the Hawaii Half-Ironman. While she was preparing for the race, some of her knee symptoms came back. After the race, she required a revision of the meniscus allograft and received a lateral femoral condyle osteochondral allograft.
“Ever since the revision surgery, I have been functioning at an incredibly high level,” Rachel said.
Now an orthopedic surgery resident at Rush University Medical Center, Rachel works alongside Dr. Cole, the surgeon who helped her heal. Many of her research projects involve allograft applications and her experience as an allograft recipient provides a unique connection to her patients in need of a tissue transplant.
“The allograft has allowed me to be a surgeon, permitting me to stand for over 12 hours in the operating room without thinking about my knee because I have literally no pain or swelling,” she said.
“Before the allograft transplantation, there is no way I would have been able to do this. I am incredibly grateful for my tissue donors and their families. This gift has inspired me to pursue my passion for orthopaedic and sports medicine and to help my future patients the same way Dr. Cole and his team helped me.”
Colorado State University Professor Earns Funding for Musculoskeletal Trauma and Cancer Research | August 17, 2015
Today Dr. Nicole Ehrhart, a veterinarian, board-certified surgical oncologist and CSU professor of surgical oncology, assumes the Ross M. Wilkins, M.D. Limb Preservation University Chair in Musculoskeletal Biology and Oncology. Among Colorado State’s highest honors, University Chairs are funding mechanisms used to support outstanding scholars in their quests for new knowledge in critical fields. Ehrhart is one of 14 CSU faculty members holding academic chairs endowed at $3 million.
At Colorado State’s Flint Animal Cancer Center, Dr. Ehrhart teaches and treats animal patients. She also studies ways to prevent limb loss and to regenerate bones and muscle in people and animals whose extremities are threatened by cancer, infection or trauma. Ehrhart employs surgical and bone-grafting techniques, as well as biologics and stem-cell therapies.
Dr. Ross Wilkins, the Founder and President of The Limb Preservation Foundation, and Dr. Stephen Withrow, a veterinarian, came up with the idea for the chair to advance research in sarcoma and musculoskeletal diseases. The Limb Preservation Foundation began raising funds towards the $3 million endowment. AlloSource pledged the lead gift and additional financial support came from the McDonnell Family Foundation, the Ferguson Family and many generous supporters of The Limb Preservation Foundation.
“Ten years ago, nobody had the slightest idea that you could transplant muscle,” said Dr. Withrow. “That wasn’t part of the scheme that we did. We transplanted bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage. But now, any tissue, and almost any organ, is possible to move from patient to patient effectively – legs, hands, faces, nothing’s impossible.”
Continue reading about this amazing milestone here.
AlloSource® announced positive clinical results for the use of AlloSkin™ to help heal diabetic foot ulcers, venous leg ulcers or surgical/traumatic wounds.
The peer-reviewed, retrospective study, “Human Skin Allograft for Patients with Diabetic Foot Ulcers, Venous Leg Ulcers, or Surgical/Traumatic Wounds: A Retrospective, Descriptive Study,” was conducted at wound clinics in the Inova Health System and published in Ostomy Wound Management.
Dr. Eric Desman was the principal investigator for this study, which included 36 patients and is the first identified study of very large chronic wounds treated with human skin allografts. The mean wound size in the study was 19.4 cm2.
Continue reading about this study here.
For Ashley, a certified nursing assistant, being active is a crucial part of her busy job. After two four-wheeling accidents and two subsequent knee surgeries, she hoped she could get back to normal. However, a constant, nagging knee pain landed her back in the doctor’s office and on the receiving end of medical care.
“The pain obviously made my job difficult, because I’m always running around and on my feet,” said Ashley. “By the end of the day, the pain was exhausting.”
The cartilage under her knee cap had degenerated and it became clear that Ashley’s best option was surgery. After talking with her surgeon, Dr. Vishal Mehta, she learned about ProChondrix™, a new cartilage product.
AlloSource’s ProChondrix is a cellular 3D fresh cartilage matrix that helps deliver the necessary components for cartilage restoration. This next generation of cartilage therapy provides live cells and other biological components, which are necessary for repair and regeneration of damaged cartilage tissues.
“Being in the medical field, I was curious. I trusted Dr. Mehta and knew if he was confident in using the product, I was confident too.”
Dr. Mehta is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and was involved with the development of ProChondrix.
“Ashley came to me with knee pain that was destroying her life,” said Dr. Mehta. “She couldn’t work, ride a bike and really just was not enjoying herself any more. She was at the end of her rope and looking for options. We had a long discussion about cartilage restoration and breakthroughs on the horizon. I thought she was a good candidate for ProChondrix and so did Ashley.”
Ashley underwent surgery in December of 2014 and is recovering very well. Though she originally planned on being out of work for 12 weeks, she was able to return after eight weeks. She also started biking and has lost 30 pounds since her surgery.
“She now has her life back,” said Dr. Mehta. “It is the ability to help patients like Ashley that makes my job so special and I am ecstatic that we have new options like ProChondrix to help the patients who put their trust in us.”
Since the cartilage allograft is derived from a deceased human donor, Ashley is grateful for the generosity of the person who helped make it possible for her to heal.
“I’ve always been a donor since I knew it could possibly save someone’s life,” said Ashley. “I’m even more glad I’m a donor now, knowing that I could impact people in more ways than I ever knew through procedures like mine.”
When Sarah Gray and her husband Ross found out that one of their twins wouldn’t live very long after birth, they made the brave decision to donate his organs and tissues for research. This is the Gray family’s story of strength, love and the amazing potential of the gift of life.
The Gray family has been on an incredible journey to learn about their son’s contributions to science and meet the researchers who honored his donation.
Listen to their Radiolab interview here.