New research indicates that painful fractures and bad bone grafts may soon become a thing of the past, thanks to cartilage grafts.
"Cartilage graft induces bone that actually integrates with the host bone and vascularizes it (forming blood vessels)," said Ralph S. Marcucio, associate professor of orthopaedics at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.
Cartilage graft is very different than the current methods used for bone grafting --autograft bone (a person's own bone) or allograft materials (donor bone).
For various reasons, these two grafting techniques can result in poor graft integration and osteonecrosis (bones die and eventually collapse, leading to pain and arthritis).
"With millions of bone grafting procedures performed every year in just the United States, developing improved technologies could directly enhance patient care and clinical outcomes," said Marcucio, who led the research, according to a California statement.
Chelsea S. Bahney, postdoctoral scholar, from California School of Medicine, concedes their approach is less orthodox. "This cartilage is naturally bioactive. It makes factors that help induce vascularization and bone formation.
"When people use a bone graft, it is often dead bone which requires something exogenous to be added to it or some property of the matrix in the graft," said Bahney.
These findings were presented at the Orthopaedic Research Society's (ORS) 2012 Annual Meeting in San Francisco.