A promising new gel can form a strong bond with cartilage to allow new cells to grow in order to repair damaged joints.
Cartilage damage Difficult to treat
Treating cartilage damage is difficult because the tissue does not heal well, and sometimes in adults, it does not heal at all. It is possible to try to repair cartilage by implanting cartilage cells to repair the damaged areas, but there are many problems with this, for example, it is difficult to attach the cells to the damaged area. Chinese researchers at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai may have found a solution by developing a special gel. They presented their findings on 25 August in the journal Science Advances.
The new hydrogel is also characterized by strong cartilage binding and is strong enough to hold its shape for the months it takes for new cartilage to grow. It is relatively simple to use, requiring only a small hole to be made. It is much less restrictive than the patch method, which is one of the most commonly used methods where a patch is used to hold the cells in place. It is an open surgery, after which patients take a long time to recover and cannot put pressure on the joint for a long time.
The main property of the gel is that it only hardens when exposed to ultraviolet light for about 10 seconds. The researchers carried out tests on pigs and showed that cartilage damage healed well after six months of using a gel containing cartilage cells. When the gel is used without these cells, healing is poor. “We will start human trials soon,” promises Qiuning Lin, lead author of the study.
More studies are needed on the use of the gel to treat the meniscus
The study focused on treating damaged meniscus, the cartilage that covers the ends of bones. Many knee injuries lead to damage to the cartilage between the bones, the meniscus. Researchers believe that more animal studies are needed in this area.
The gel could also be used for skin tissue engineering. A clinical trial is already underway to test this. “Promising results have been achieved,” says Qiuning Lin.
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