New implant quickens cartilage repair after surgery

January 15, 2013


New implant quickens cartilage repair after surgery

According to a new study published in the January issue of Science Translational Medicine, scientists from Johns Hopkins University were able to increase healthy tissue growth after patients underwent surgery to repair damaged cartilage in their knees. This orthopaedic research may be important to the future of treating knee injuries and other problems related to the joint.

In 15 different patients, the study's researchers placed hydrogel scaffolding into the wound to support and nourish the healing process of a standard microfracture surgery. For this procedure, orthopaedic surgeons drill tiny holes into the bone near the injury site to stimulate patients' specialized stem cells to emerge from their bone marrow and grow new cartilage. The subjects were compared against three control patients who received a microfracture without the hydrogel implant.

After six months, the researchers discovered that the hydrogel scaffolding caused no serious side effects and facilitated faster cartilage growth than seen in the controls. In addition, subjects who received the implant experienced a decrease in knee pain over the course of the recovery process that was more significant than that of the patients who just had the microfracture.

"Our pilot study indicates that the new implant works as well in patients as it does in the lab, so we hope it will become a routine part of care and improve healing," said Jennifer Elisseeff, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In the U.S., knee pain is not uncommon, and more than 12 million patients visit their physicians every year because of it, according to experts from the University of California San Francisco. Sometimes, the discomfort exists because the cartilage in the knee is damaged or is deteriorating, limiting the joint's mobility. In such cases, microfracture may be needed.

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