A 71-year-old Auckland woman is believed to be the first person in the world to have a detached shoulder bone completely healed through stem cell treatment.
"I couldn't believe it, within two days of the injections I was sleeping better, the pain had gone and now I'm back to swimming and gardening like I used to," Mary Tallon told the Herald.
Despite the "revolutionary breakthrough", Tallon's doctor said it was unlikely this type of stem cell treatment would become publicly available in New Zealand because there wasn't the support for it.
"In Beverly Hills orthopaedic surgeons are injecting each other with stem cell treatment to repair damaged joints but in New Zealand majority of doctors are non-believers," joint specialist Dr Hassan Mubark said.
Medsafe, New Zealand medicines and medical devices safety authority, told the Herald the evidence for joint stem cell therapy was "not strong" and more work was needed before a clinical trial could be considered.
Hassan said Tallon's story was groundbreaking evidence showing the potential this kind of treatment could have in New Zealand, let alone the world.
He has already gained interest from patients overseas including from Holland and Iraq.
"Patients could potentially avoid surgery, physio and taking months off work to recover and the Government should be getting behind this,"he said.
Tallon tore her right shoulder when a 4-year-old jumped from a top bunk and accidentally landed on her in April last year.
She said she was in "extreme pain" and faced a long waiting list for shoulder surgery that she was expected to take months to recover from.
It was her GP who suggested she look into stem cell treatment after coming back from a "cutting edge" conference where it was discussed.
"My orthopedic surgeon told me I would be foolish to do stem cell treatment and said there wasn't enough medical evidence and it was ridiculous.
"But I decided to give it go if it meant potentially avoiding surgery and the rest of it."
That was when she met Mubark - the doctor who last year helped get All Black Owen Franks back on the filed in time for the Rugby World Cup through stem cell treatment.
Mubark said Tallon's case was unique because not only had she torn her tendon but it had detached itself from the bone.
"Repairing a detached tendon through stem cell treatment had never been done anywhere in the world before, I myself did not think it would work," Mubark said.
Put simply, Mubark's team removed fat from her belly, extracted the mesenchymal stem cells and grew 100 million more of these cells over eight weeks at a lab based in Queenstown called Regen Cellular.
Half of the cells were injected into her shoulder and the other half are being stored in a lab in Queenstown and can be used if Tallon has any further orthopedic injuries. It's a technique called Pure Expanded Stem Cell therapy (PESC).
Mubark is the only specialist available in New Zealand to do this type of stem cell therapy and has treated more than 1500 patients, including Franks, with about 80 per cent success rate.
The procedure cost $12,500 and there was a chance it might not have worked.
Luckily for Tallon, her result couldn't have been better. The first MRI showed a full-thickness tear of 13mm with 7mm retraction - also known as a detached bone.
Within days Tallon said she felt her injury was healing. Eight months after the treatment, a second MRI showed her injury had 100 per cent healed with no sign of tear or detachment.
Mubark said he couldn't believe it. "It wasn't until I saw the X-ray that I could see it had worked, she was completely healed."
Derek Fitzgerald, acting group manager at Medsafe, said at the moment this form of treatment was regarded as experimental.
"As with all medical procedures and treatment with medicines it is important for a patient to understand the risks and benefits and discuss these with the health care professional."
Fitzgerald said Medsafe did not conduct clinical trials or investigate treatments, however, it was involved in the approval for applications to carry out clinical trials and consent to market medicines.
"At the moment it is regarded that the evidence is not strong in relation to stem cell therapy for joint / orthopaedic conditions and it would be expected that more work would be needed in this area for this form of therapy to become established," Fitzgerald said.
"Stem cell therapy is currently provided in the New Zealand public health system for the treatment of some cancers, but is not yet offered for the treatment of joint issues or autoimmune diseases.
"Autologous stem cell therapies for arthritis and other joint conditions have a weak evidence base and should not be offered to patients outside of a properly conducted clinical trial with full ethical approval."