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Research suggests new way to repair cartilage damage

solid polymer has mechanical properties that can be controlled during synthesis for optimal function in the joint.

In a recently completed study, Vail applied the hyaluronan polymer to animal joint wounds in a operative procedure. After two weeks, cross sections showed that the material integrated well with existing cartilage tissue, and also encouraged cells to infiltrate and lay down new cartilage growth. The polymer also showed signs of degrading, something that needs to happen as new tissue grows to replace it, Setton said.

Calling the work a promising proof of concept, Setton said there is much work still to be done. Setton is working with Dana Nettles to optimize the properties that will make the hyaluronan polymer treatment most effective. For example, the researchers need to determine the pore size that optimizes nutrient diffusion and cell movement. They also need to know how much mechanical strength the polymer needs to maintain as new cells grow, and how quickly the polymer needs to degrade.

Ideally, Setton said she would like to develop a treatment that would last for at least 10 years.

"If we can heal lesions in joint cartilage with this type of bridge therapy, we could prevent end stage osteoarthritis that leads to knee replacements," she said.


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Contact: Deborah Hill
dahill@duke.edu
919-401-0299
Duke University
8-Mar-2004


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