Cartilage is found on the surface of all joints in the body, cushioning them from shock and allowing the bones to glide smoothly over each other, but cartilage will deteriorate over time, particularly in those joints that are constantly in motion and as the knee joint bears the most load in the body, it can be the most vulnerable.
As the cartilage deteriorates it causes a condition called osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, with 49% of women and 42% of men over the age of 75 in the UK having sought treatment for osteoarthritis.
Treatment options for osteoarthritis
Unfortunately, the cartilage does not have a blood supply so healing is compromised and surgical repair of cartilage is often either not an option or can have a low success rate. Often, the only solution for large-scale cartilage damage and deterioration is the replacement of the whole knee joint, yet that also has drawbacks. This is why stem cell repair of cartilage has received much attention from the media in recent years.
Scientists have been testing whether primary or stem cells – either transplanted from another area of the body such as the hip or from a donor – can halt the damage to the knee. One problem is that often the damage is quite extensive and just transplanting cartilage or stem cells from elsewhere will have little effect so scientists are also studying the option of growing cartilage cells in a laboratory before they are reintroduced.
Now researchers at Umea University in Sweden are using cartilage cells from cow knee joints to grow healthy cartilage tissue as a possible future treatment for osteoarthritis.
Using primary bovine chondrocytes or cow cartilage cells, the scientists have been working on methods to grow cartilage tissue that could mimic human cartilage tissue. The eventual aim of this type of stem cell engineering is to be able to produce unlimited amounts of material that could be used to replace damaged human cartilage and provide a permanent solution for osteoarthritis sufferers.
To discuss your options in treating osteoarthritis, make an appointment for a consultation at either Mr Jonathan Webb’s London or Bristol clinics.