Researchers grow cartilage from stem cells

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Researchers are growing fresh cartilage from stem cells

US researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital recently succeeded in growing fresh cartilage from stem cells. Until now, cartilage cells had to be removed from healthy cartilage in a lengthy process and then expanded in the laboratory until they could finally be inserted into the defective joint. So far, however, the new method can only be used for traumatic cartilage damage. The transplant does not work for osteoarthritis with a damaged joint bone.

Multiplication of cartilage cells in the laboratory has been too lengthy so far
National goalkeeper Nadine Angerer from 1. FFC Frankfurt recently got it: Due to cartilage damage in the knee joint, she has to pause for weeks. Especially in sports such as squash or soccer, the foot or knee are often twisted. Pieces of cartilage can easily break out of the joint. "Cartilage is a very poor metabolic tissue that heals very poorly," Ingo Tusk, team doctor of the 1st FFC and vice president of the German Society for Sports Medicine, told Welt Online. Different methods can be used to treat such injuries, but they have one thing in common: the quality of real articular cartilage has never been achieved.

A meanwhile established and frequently used procedure is the "Autologous Chondrocyte Transplantation". Privatdozent Philipp Niemeyer, member of the German Society for Trauma Surgery and Trauma Surgery at the University Hospital Freiburg reports to "Welt Online" that this method is the most modern procedure for the treatment of cartilage defects However, the multiplication of cartilage cells in the laboratory could take several weeks, and scientists have been researching a better method for a long time that eliminates the need for cartilage cell removal in advance.

Cartogenin converts stem cells into cartilage cells Peter Schultz from Massachusetts General Hospital and his team report on the development of such a process in the current issue of the scientific journal Science. In the investigation of 22,000 substances, the researchers discovered the so-called "cartogenin", which can convert stem cells into cartilage cells in the laboratory. “Molecules that promote the selective differentiation of multipotent mesenchymal stem cells into cartilage cells can stimulate the repair of damaged cartilage,” the researchers report. "This work provides new insights into controlling the formation of cartilage tissue, which can ultimately lead to stem cell-based therapy for osteoarthritis," says the specialist magazine. "When transplanting the body's own stem cells, it would be conceivable to operate only once, since larger quantities of cells can be processed directly from the iliac crest bone marrow during the procedure and then immediately inserted into the joint without the need for lengthy cultivation," Niemeyer hopes for the work of his colleagues.

Tusk explains that this discovery has not yet helped with the most common joint disease, arthrosis: “The transplant only works with traumatic cartilage damage with a healthy joint bone. Degeneratively altered bones are already damaged too much for the cartilage cells to grow there again. "

According to the Federal Association for Medical Technology, around 400,000 artificial joints are used in the Federal Republic every year, and the trend is rising. Although an artificial joint is better than a sick one, the articular cartilage is so complex that an artificial joint never reaches the quality of a real one. Due to the high water content, the articular cartilage is not only an ideal sliding material but also an effective shock absorber that absorbs about three to four times the body weight when walking.

Although many cartilage injuries occur during sports, these can also be prevented by exercise. Attention should be paid to the sport. Tusk recommends cycling, swimming and nordic walking. "A joint wants to be moved, but not loaded." (Ag)

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Image: Photo credit: Martin Gapa /

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Video: Stem Cells and Platelet Rich Plasma for Cartilage Damage - Dr John Pitts. Regenexx

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