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Cutting edge procedure using your own cells to repair cartilage

OKLAHOMA CITY - Ashton Brum is a runner, dancer and member of the school marching band, but she is sidelined by an active lifestyle and bad genetics.

"A lot of pressure. Walking was, it hurt, but it wasn't painful. It was uncomfortable to walk and uncomfortable to start running,” Ashton Brum said.

At 16, she was ready for that uncomfortable pressure to go away for good.

"When I bent down, it sounded like a plastic bag inside my knee was crackly," Brum said. "And it was popping all the time."

She turned to Dr. Zak Knutson at Oklahoma Sports and Orthopedics Institute.

He told her she was a candidate for a new cutting edge procedure launched in the United States earlier this year.

It's called MACI, which is a procedure that repairs damaged cartilage using a person’s own cartilage cells.

"You stimulate the cells in the right environment and they make cartilage around themselves. It's kind of like they make a cushion around themselves,” Dr. Zak Knutson said.

Doctors say cartilage is harvested from the patient and sent to a lab in Massachusetts. It's then soaked into a patch and applied to the damaged area.

"The cells start to stick 24 hours to the bone. Once they stick, then we're good because then we start motion and a little bit of weight-bearing to stimulate them to grow and make cartilage around them,” Dr. Knutson said.

After performing the procedure about a dozen times, Dr. Knutson says he has seen success.

"We're trying to prevent knee replacement. They know they have cartilage injuries. They've been told it's arthritis, but she doesn't have arthritis. She has a cartilage defect in her knee. It's potentially for anybody with some sort of cartilage injury, even potentially arthritis,” Dr. Knutson said.

"Usually my pain is at a five or above before surgery, and now it's at two and below. It's extremely weird and crazy to feel it not in pain,” Brum said.

It will take several more months for a full recovery, but this teen is ready for a new lease on life.