Continuing Research On Knee Surgery For Horses At Colorado State University Holds Promise Of Helping Humans With Osteoarthritis

quality repair tissue."

Meanwhile, the Colorado State researchers have a second project: identifying proteins called "growth factors" that will promote the growth of sturdy new tissue.

"The microfracture technique itself is helping horses," McIlwraith said, and added that the work has changed the way he operates on horses and has changed the way Steadman works on human knees. As a result of McIlwraith's studies, Steadman scrapes a defect differently and allows weight bearing in his patients sooner, for example.

McIlwraith presented his findings on microfracture to human orthopaedic meetings in Europe and North America in 1998.

"The response in both those instances has been for human orthopaedic surgeons to feel that they now have sufficient justification to be using the technique," he said.

Work over the past three years has been funded by National Football League Charities and the Charles Koch Foundation. Future research is leading, according to McIlwraith, in several directions:

  • A project with Neocyte Joint Venture involves culturing cartilage cells from a young animal, seeding them onto a scaffold and implanting it in an injured joint.

  • A project with Atrix Laboratories of Fort Collins is investigating a polymer that could deliver growth factors to a healing joint.

  • Working with Oratec and the Steadman-Hawkins Foundation, a radio frequency probe is being evaluated to see if it can help "weld" cartilage.

  • Gene therapy, which involves finding a gene and using a virus to carry it into joint cells where it can produce the desired effect, is being carried out in collaboration with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • The development of synovial fluid (which lubricates joints) and serum markers to indicate early deterioration in cartilage is under way with several European collaborators.
McIlwraith is satisfied with progress so far.


Contact: David Weymiller
Colorado State University

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