In tests on rabbits, Lori Setton, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, and her research team stimulated new cartilage growth in knee joint cartilage defects using a light-activated polymer hydrogel composed from a specialized molecule, hyaluronan. The hyaluronan-based polymer creates a protective cap over the wound, enabling joint movement while providing the structural support and chemical environment for new cartilage tissue to grow and fill the defect.
Dana Nettles, a graduate student in Setton's laboratory, presented the research findings on Monday, March 8, 2004, at the Orthopedic Research Society Annual meeting in San Francisco. A paper titled "In Situ Crosslinkable Hyaluronan for Articular Cartilage Repair" will be published in the March 2004 issue of Annals of Biomedical Engineering.
"We feel that the outcomes from this study suggest that therapies like this one hold promise for future, successful cartilage repair procedures," said Nettles.
Trauma and injuries to the knees and hips commonly involve damage to the articular cartilage, the thin layer lining the ends of articulating joints. If left untreated, the cartilage defects do not repair because the local cells are unable to regenerate new tissue. Patients suffering from cartilage damage will go on to develop osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage, causing pain and loss of movement. Nearly 21 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, principally in joints of the hip and knee.