NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s a glimmer of hope for some of the millions of people who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knees.

Researchers have found a way to regrow cartilage in the knee and perhaps even prevent knee-replacement surgery, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

Kemar Bassaragh has been visiting Fusion Physical Therapy after the former college track triple-jumper blew out his knee on the tennis court this summer.

“Not only was it my meniscus; it was also my ACL and a part of my cartilage,” Bassaragh said.

“It was a good forehand,” he laughed.

Years down the road, “ultimately the only thing you can really do to change that situation is a total joint replacement,” said Dr. James Gladstone, an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital.

So Bassaragh opted for an innovative way to fix his knee: by regrowing cartilage from his own cells.

First, Gladstone harvested a piece of cartilage from a part of Bassaragh’s knee that doesn’t bear weight. That was then sent to a lab in Boston, where cells are multiplied into many millions of cartilage-producing cells.

During a second procedure, those cells are used to fill in the original divot, which is then closed up with a tissue patch.

“Not only do we reproduce a new cartilage layer that’s nice and smooth and allows the joint to function normally — so they don’t have the pain, the swelling and the catching, and they get back to their activities — but certainly longer term the hope is that the joint stays healthy and avoids any kind of further surgery,” Gladstone said.

The process is expensive — $30,000 or more — but it is FDA-approved and often covered by insurance.

Its success varies, however, depending on the health of the cells, where the cartilage damage is located and other factors. But in the right patient, a return of 90 percent activity is possible.

The cartilage can take more than a year to fully mature.

In the meantime, the therapy is helping Bassaragh toward his goal.

“Just really hoping to get back on the courts as soon as possible,” he said.

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