University of Cambridge

New Implant Helps Cartilage Grow

Engineers at MIT and researchers at the University of Cambridge designed a new resorbable, porous implant for joint surfaces. Chondromimetic is an implant with a two layer scaffolding that encourages the body’s natural healing process. The implant stimulates the repair of damaged joint surfaces caused by degenerative processes, such as osteoarthritis. Chondromimetic contains collagen, glycosaminoglycans and calcium phosphate which are biocompatible materials normally found in cartilage and bone. The implant has a two layer scaffold which provides a framework to allow cells to migrate in and around and start the regeneration process. One layer of the scaffold mimics bone and the other layer mimic cartilage and they can stimulate stem cells in the bone marrow to produce new bone and cartilage. The dual layer scaffold resembles the cartilage and bone layers in a normal joint and this makes it unique and perfect for joint surfaces.

Arthritis is the inflammation and swelling of the joint tissues and associated deterioration of the cartilage and osteoarthritis is the breakdown of the cartilage within the joint. Healthy joint cartilage helps with shock absorption and allows the bones to glide smoothly over each other. When the cartilage deteriorates, the underlying bone is exposed which causes painful and limited joint movement.

There is no current treatment for osteoarthritis that will replace the cartilage. There are conservative therapies for managing the pain and accommodating the joint. There are medications, such as ibuprofen, which can manage the pain and discomfort. Surgical procedures are limited. Some current procedures involve drilling the deteriorated joint surface to encourage new cartilage growth. There are some cartilage implants which can be placed within the joint and have some success. When the arthritis becomes severe and the pain is limiting, many joints are replaced. In the foot, the great toe joint is the most commonly affected by osteoarthritis. Joint fusion, placing two bones together with screws and removing the remaining cartilage, is a common procedure for severe osteoarthritis.

The Chondromimetic implant is an novel approach and current research is encouraging, but further evidence is needed to establish the safety and effectiveness.

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