To treat arthritis in hips that requires extensive surgery to replace them, scientists have programmed stem stells to grow new cartilage on a 3-D template shaped like the hip joint ball. Further, they have activated the new cartilage to fend off return of arthritis by releasing anti-inflammatory molecules from the new cartilage.
Developed by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Cytex Therapeutics Inc. in Durham, N.C., the technique was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The new technique may become an alternative to hip-replacement surgery one day as doctors prefer not to perform it on patients aged 50 or above due to prothetic joints risking destruction of bone and infection.
Explaining the process, Farshid Guilak, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Washington University, said:“We’ve developed a way to resurface an arthritic joint using a patient’s own stem cells to grow new cartilage, combined with gene therapy to release anti-inflammatory molecules to keep arthritis at bay." He hoped that it would prevent, or at least delay, a standard metal and plastic prosthetic joint replacement.
The 3-D scaffold is built using a weaving pattern like in any normal cartilage. The unique structure is the result of approximately 600 biodegradable fiber bundles woven together to create a high-performance fabric that can function like normal cartilage.
“The woven implants are strong enough to withstand loads up to 10 times a patient’s body weight, which is typically what our joints must bear when we exercise,” said Franklin Moutos, vice president of technology development at Cytex, .
Currently, there are about 30 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis, and it the number is fast growing.
A 3-D, biodegradable, synthetic scaffold has been molded into the precise shape of a hip joint. The scaffold is covered with cartilage made from stem cells taken from fat beneath the skin. (Image: Guilak laboratory)