Scientists at the Northwestern University are first to invent a bioactive nanomaterial that promotes new cartilage to grow in vivo without using costly growth factors.
The therapy is minimally invasive and activates the stem cells in the bone marrow producing natural cartilage. There is no conventional therapy that can do this so far.
"Unlike bone, cartilage does not grow back, and therefore clinical strategies to regenerate this tissue are of great interest," said Samuel I. Stupp, senior author, Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, and Medicine, and director of the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine.
Assistant Professor Ramille Shah, first author of the study, said: "Our material of nanoscopic fibers stimulates stem cells present in bone marrow to produce cartilage containing type II collagen and repair the damaged joint."
"A procedure called microfracture is the most common technique currently used by doctors, but it tends to produce a cartilage having predominantly type I collagen which is more like scar tissue," Shah added.
The research is reported in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.