MELBOURNE researchers have taken a big step towards developing “grow your own” cartilage to treat cancers, osteoarthritis and traumatic injury.
In a major breakthrough at St Vincent’s Hospital, pea-sized spheres of cartilage were grown over 28 days.
They were grown using stem cells taken from tissue under the kneecap.
The tissue is normally thrown out during knee reconstructions, thousands of which are carried out in Victoria each year.
Using 3D printing technologies, the researchers created a 3D scaffold on which to grow cartilage cells, or chondrocytes.
Lead researcher Associate Professor Damian Myers said this was the first time true cartilage had been grown, as opposed to “fibrocartilage” that does not work long-term.
“It’s very exciting work, and we’ve done the hard yards to show that what we have cultured is what we want for use in surgery for cartilage repair,” he said.
Cartilage helps distribute the force of movements in joints and allows bones to move smoothly.
But unlike other types of tissue, it lacks its own blood supply, so cannot repair itself when damaged through osteoarthritis, in accidents, or by cancer.
Associate Prof Myers said patients now relied on cartilage transplants or the extraction and re-injection of their own cartilage cells back into their knees or hips.
“A normal cartilage repair might only last a couple of years,” he said.
The bioengineering breakthrough is part of a wider limb regeneration project.
The program would be part of the new Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery, which needs $180 million in government funding to proceed….
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