Researchers use hydrogel to repair cartilage

January 11, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Tissue engineers report knee cartilage repair success with new biomaterial
This is an illustration of the cartilage repair surgical procedure. A mini-incision exposes the cartilage defect (top left-hand panel), and any dead tissue is removed from the edges. (B) The adhesive is then applied to the base and walls of the defect, followed by microfracture. (C) Lastly, the hydrogel solution is injected into the defect. (D) Bleeding from the microfracture holes is trapped in and around the hydrogel. Credit: Science Translational Medicine/AAAS

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers in the US have created a type of hydrogel that has proven to be effective in treating patients with damaged cartilage. The gel, the team writes, in their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, thickens when exposed to light, providing a lattice platform for the development of new cell growth.

Cartilage is the pliable material that sits between bones that connect at the joints – its job is to serve as a buffer or cushion. Injuries to cartilage or simple wear and tear can result in that allow bones to rub against one another causing difficulty in moving and pain. Sadly, cartilage doesn't generally repair itself the way other body parts do because it doesn't have a blood source. For that reason, doctors must intercede if a patient is to recover.

The traditional approach to repairing damaged cartilage is a procedure called microfracturing – doctors drill holes in the bone near the cartilage releasing blood and stem cells into the damaged area, promoting new cell growth. Unfortunately for such patients, the procedure doesn't fully restore cartilage to its former state and quite often leads to the formation of . Because of this, many patients who experience , particularly in the knee, wind up with an artificial joint instead of repaired cartilage.

In this new approach, the researchers developed a that when exposed to light, thickens into a Jell-O like substance with a crisscross lattice pattern. To make use of it, doctors first perform the standard microfracturing procedure. Once that's finished, they apply the gel to the holes in the cartilage, then finish by bathing it in light to cause it to thicken. The gel provides a platform for the to grow into , allowing for . Over time, the gel dissolves, leaving behind new cartilage.

To test how well the gel works, the team performed just the microfracturing procedure on one group of patients, and the combined procedure on another. They found that those that had received the gel had on average 86 percent closure of the perforations, whereas those that underwent just the microfracturing showed the normal 64 percent – a dramatic improvement, especially considering that those patients that received the gel also reported much less pain.

Because the number of patients in the study was small, more testing will have to be done to see just how effective the gel really is, of course. Thus far though, the results have been positive enough to suggest that the gel will likely become a standard treatment for cartilage repair in the very near future.

Explore further: Cartilage repair gel gives injuries a sporting chance

More information: Human Cartilage Repair with a Photoreactive Adhesive-Hydrogel Composite, Sci Transl Med 9 January 2013: Vol. 5, Issue 167, p. 167ra6 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3004838

ABSTRACT
Surgical options for cartilage resurfacing may be significantly improved by advances and application of biomaterials that direct tissue repair. A poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel was designed to support cartilage matrix production, with easy surgical application. A model in vitro system demonstrated deposition of cartilage-specific extracellular matrix in the hydrogel biomaterial and stimulation of adjacent cartilage tissue development by mesenchymal stem cells. For translation to the joint environment, a chondroitin sulfate adhesive was applied to covalently bond and adhere the hydrogel to cartilage and bone tissue in articular defects. After preclinical testing in a caprine model, a pilot clinical study was initiated where the biomaterials system was combined with standard microfracture surgery in 15 patients with focal cartilage defects on the medial femoral condyle. Control patients were treated with microfracture alone. Magnetic resonance imaging showed that treated patients achieved significantly higher levels of tissue fill compared to controls. Magnetic resonance spin-spin relaxation times (T2) showed decreasing water content and increased tissue organization over time. Treated patients had less pain compared with controls, whereas knee function [International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC)] scores increased to similar levels between the groups over the 6 months evaluated. No major adverse events were observed over the study period. With further clinical testing, this practical biomaterials strategy has the potential to improve the treatment of articular cartilage defects.

Press release

Related Stories

Cartilage repair gel gives injuries a sporting chance

March 8, 2012
A cartilage gel being developed by tissue engineers and biochemists at the University of Sydney could bring increased mobility to people living with debilitating sports injuries.

Research team finds compound that can spur cartilage growth

April 6, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A research team from drug maker Novartis has discovered a compound that spurs cartilage growth in mice. As they describe in their paper published in the journal Science, the team has found that when a ...

Repairing cartilage with fat: Problems and potential solutions

August 24, 2012
Stem cells isolated from fat are being considered as an option for treating tissue damage and diseases because of their accessibility and lack of rejection. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Stem ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

down
not rated yet Jan 11, 2013
Microfracturing looks very much like drilling teeth. This could be a job that dentists, who have few alternatives, could do well. I once imagined something for teeth which would play the same role as hydrogel for cartilage. It is so aggravating to have teeth whittled away until they can no longer hold out that a way must be found to heal them instead of throwing them away.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.