February 07, 2010
Nanomaterial Promotes Cartilage Growth

Tell those stem cells to get off their duffs and fix things!

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University researchers are the first to design a bioactive nanomaterial that promotes the growth of new cartilage in vivo and without the use of expensive growth factors. Minimally invasive, the therapy activates the bone marrow stem cells and produces natural cartilage. No conventional therapy can do this.

The results will be published online the week of Feb. 1 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"Unlike bone, cartilage does not grow back, and therefore clinical strategies to regenerate this tissue are of great interest," said Samuel I. Stupp, senior author, Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and Medicine, and director of the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine. Countless people -- amateur athletes, professional athletes and people whose joints have just worn out -- learn this all too well when they bring their bad knees, shoulders and elbows to an orthopaedic surgeon.

I know people who experience daily pain from worn knee joints. Some started feeling this pain in their 30s. That's a long time to go thru life with a disability that, absent a treatment such as this one, will mean only worsening pain to look forward to.

In an animal model the nanofiber gel with growth factor injected into the injured joint stimulates stem cells to produce the desired type II collagen.

"Our material of nanoscopic fibers stimulates stem cells present in bone marrow to produce cartilage containing type II collagen and repair the damaged joint," Shah said. "A procedure called microfracture is the most common technique currently used by doctors, but it tends to produce a cartilage having predominantly type I collagen which is more like scar tissue."

The Northwestern gel is injected as a liquid to the area of the damaged joint, where it then self-assembles and forms a solid. This extracellular matrix, which mimics what cells usually see, binds by molecular design one of the most important growth factors for the repair and regeneration of cartilage. By keeping the growth factor concentrated and localized, the cartilage cells have the opportunity to regenerate.

Anyone know what the obstacles are to trying this in humans? In the United States is FDA approval needed?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 February 07 08:07 PM  Biotech Repair Joints

Hong said at February 8, 2010 9:03 AM:

Sounds like a heftier version of prolotherapy. I wonder what other joint applications it could be used for, such as maybe the back? Whatever the cost, I'm game for alternatives to endless physical therapy, steroid injections or arthroscopy.

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