Monday, August 2, 2010

New Joints: Without Transplants?

"Cartilage is one of the most resistant tissues for regeneration. This is the first time an entire cartilage joint was regenerated." --- Dr Jeremy J. Mao, Columbia University

Sounds crazy? New joints to replace our old worn-out ones? New joints, made of natural tissue from our own bodies? Really? Brand new?

It may seem impossible, but NIH-funded researchers recently regenerated rabbit joints--- using a cutting edge process, to form the joint inside the living subject's own body, or 'in vivo'.

The research team infused 'Bioscaffolds', (three-dimensional structures made of biocompatible and biodegradable materials in the shape of the tissue), with a protein. This process very effectively promoted growth of the rabbit joint. Bioscaffolds infused with TGFB3 recruited 130 percent more cells. A new layer of cartilage tissue formed--- with greater compressive and shear properties than those who received the bioscaffold without the TGFB3.

Crippled rabbits, with TGFB3-infused bioscaffolds, resumed weight-bearing activity and locomotion--- just three to four weeks after joint replacement.

At five to eight weeks after surgery, these rabbits moved nearly as well as the undamaged control rabbits. Rabbits whose bioscaffolds did not contain TGFB3 remained crippled.

The team was diverse, and packed with expert researchers. Doctors Chang H. Lee, Avital Mendelson, Eduardo K. Moioli, and Jeremy J. Mao of Columbia University Medical Center Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, New York City; James L. Cook, University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine, Columbia; and Hai Yao, Clemson University and Medical University of South Carolina Department of Bioengineering, Charleston. Their study is being published in the July 29 issue of The Lancet.

Growing dissimilar tissues, such as cartilage and bone, is a huge achievement on its own. But to grow new structures entirely from the host's own cells is simply amazing!

The goal would be to ultimately replace arthritic or damaged joints in patients who would otherwise need total artificial old-fashioned joint replacement.

Is this the future of regenerative ortho medicine? In-vivo procedures are already stimulating (previously irreparable) organs or tissues to self-heal.

And now this joint technique goes beyond repair of an old joint--- rebuilding it like new, naturally, with the body's own cells!

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