Jun
17
2006

Growing replacement cartilage

Cartilage synthesis: Credit: Jerry Hu  Rice University  A breakthrough self-assembly technique for growing replacement cartilage offers hope of replacing the entire articular surface of knees damaged by arthritis. The technique, developed by Rice University bioengineer Kyriac
Cartilage synthesis: Credit: Jerry Hu Rice University A breakthrough self-assembly technique for growing replacement cartilage offers hope of replacing the entire articular surface of knees damaged by arthritis. The technique, developed by Rice University bioengineer Kyriac

Most tissues in our bodies -- including skin, blood vessels and bone -- regenerate themselves constantly. This is not true for the cartilage in our knees, hips, and shoulders. Helping the body repair cartilage is the focus of current research.
A breakthrough self-assembly technique for growing replacement cartilage offers hope of replacing the entire articular surface of knees damaged by arthritis. The technique, developed by Rice University bioengineer Kyriacos Athanasiou and postdoctoral researcher Jerry Hu involves a self-assembly method of growing replacement tissue. Using cells, Hu and Athanasiou have refined the technique to grow the entire articular surface of the lower femur. Each of these samples shown in the photo were tailored three-dimensionally to fit a specific rabbit femur.
His lab is also working on techniques to grow replacement knee menisci, the kidney shaped wedges of cartilage that sit between the femur and tibia and absorb the compressive shock that the bones undergo during walking and running. Over the past 18 months, he and his students Adam Aufderheide and Gwen Hoben have perfected methods of growing meniscus-shaped pieces of cartilage, but they are still trying to perfect the mechanical strength of the engineered meniscus tissue, which must be able to withstand up to an astounding 2,400 pounds per square inch of compressive pressure.

Another approach

Project collaborators at Rice include Antonios Mikos, the John W. Cox Professor of Bioengineering.

Mikos’s team hopes to develop new, noninvasive treatment options that eliminate the need for large surgeries and avoid associated problems such as tissue rejection and disease transmission. They envision doing this by harvesting a few of the patient’s own bone marrow cells and using those to grow more. These marrow cells will be included in a biodegradable polymer that is injected into the wound.
There are several different kinds of cartilage in the body. Mikos’s research will focus on articular cartilage, the kind that covers the ends of bones in joints. The scaffold will be injected into the defect in the articular cartilage and seeded with adult precursor cells from the bone marrow. These undeveloped cells may become the type of cells found in cartilage in the presence of biochemical triggers found inside the joint.
The polymer is administered as a liquid that turns into a semirigid gel after several minutes in the body. This semirigid filler, known as a scaffold, acts as a template for newly grown cartilage. The scaffold is designed to break down over time as new cartilage fills the wound. Rice University.

Rice University press release via EurekaAlert
Sallyport Magazine of Rice University; Vol. 59, No. 4
Brown University cartilage and repair instruction

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