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Can We Grow Knee Cartilage?

According to an article in Orthopedics This Week, the answer to this question may be,”YES”. A recent study published in Science Translational Medicine examined the effects of nasal cartilage cells transplanted into arthritic knee joints. The research team out of the University Hospital of Basal, Switzerland extracted nasal cartilage cells from 7 patients (<55 years old), cultured each sample, and applied them to specialized scaffold to create a cartilage graft that was 30-40 mm in length. The graft was then transplanted into the knees of the patients to replace damaged cartilage.

The results of the study showed that the nasal cartilage cells were, in fact, able to grow in the environment of the knee joint. This discovery sheds light on the possibility of cartilage transplantation from sources outside the natural setting of the knee joint. In addition, researchers noted that the nasal cartilage cell growth was associated with increased expression of “HOX genes”, which may lead to further insights in cartilage transplantation in the future.

The article also quoted lead researcher Professor Ivan Martin on the results of the study, saying, “The findings from the basic research and the preclinical studies on the properties of nasal cartilage cells and the resulting engineered transplants have opened up the possibility to investigate an innovative clinical treatment of cartilage damage.” Although studies involving the growth and transplantation of cartilage are far from human trials at this point, this study illustrates the rapid growth of research in this field and the potential for future developments in cartilage repair.

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