Intense pressure helps cartilage regeneration: study

June 5th, 2008 - 10:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 5 (IANS) Intense pressure, the kind experienced half-a-mile beneath the ocean’s surface, stimulates cartilage cells to grow new tissues, a new study has found. The finding holds out the possibility of developing therapy to bring relief to arthritis patients.

Tissue engineering, the pressure technique that makes this possible, is a new discipline that aims to capitalise on the body’s abilities to develop ways of growing tissues for surgical repair of wounds without risking rejection.

A tissue like cartilage is the skeleton’s shock absorber and its stiffness, strength and other mechanical properties derive not from living cartilage cells but from the densely woven matrix of collagen and proteoglycan that surrounds them.

This extra-cellular matrix, or ECM, is produced during cartilage development in children, but cannot be repaired following injury in adulthood.

“This tissue-engineering method - which requires no stem cells - holds promise not only for cartilage but also for tissues to repair bladders, blood vessels, kidneys, heart valves, bones and more,” said lead researcher Kyriacos Athanasiou of Rice University.

Injured cartilage often serves as the focal point for arthritis formation, so tissue engineers have long sought a means of growing new cartilage that can be transplanted into adults to repair damaged joints before arthritis can develop.

Unfortunately, cartilage is difficult to engineer, in part because there are no natural healing processes to mimic.

Athanasiou has focussed on cartilage for more than 10 years, and he said the new process is the first he has studied that produces cartilage that’s almost identical to the body’s own tissue.

The findings of the study appear this week in the journal PLoS One.

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