Cartilage works as a shock absorber in joints, but it is prone to injury from normal wear and tear and trauma from sports accidents and falls. The current standard of care surgical approach to restore damaged cartilage remains unsuccessful. This is because the survival of repair tissue created by cartilage cells at the site of damage has been demonstrated to drop dramatically after 5-10 years. Consequently, there is a need for a new method to encourage robust, long-term regeneration at the site of damage, like the implantation of cartilage tissue rather than cartilage cells.
A research team took on this challenging task and invented a new way of generating human cartilage tissue through stem cells. The technique could bring boom within Tissue Engineering Market as it is a ray of light for people suffering from cartilage damage.
Stem cells are the body's raw materials that give rise to all other cells with specialized roles. Under the right conditions, stem cells divide to generate new cells known as daughter cells in the body or a laboratory. Any other cell in the body does not have the potential to create new cell types on its own.
The researchers stated that they produced cartilage tissue in the laboratory by distinguishing embryonic stem cells into cartilage cells. After this, they used the cells to produce 3D (Three–Dimensional) pieces of cartilage tissue without any natural or synthetic supporting materials. The technique used is referred to as the 'scaffold-free cartilage tissue engineering technique. The cartilage generated is mechanically and structurally similar to normal human cartilage. Further, it can even build a stable and longer-lasting repair compared to current treatment options available to patients.
This is the first time the scaffold-free technique has been used for the generation of cartilage tissue which is scaled up above 1mm without harming any of its mechanical and structural properties. The team is optimistic that the lab-created tissue could be a routine part of surgery for mending damaged cartilage as further research is carried out.
The present research is fascinating and incredible. The newly demonstrated ability to generate cartilage with properties similar to that of normal human cartilage could pave the way for a robust tissue engineering product within cartilage repair. This tissue-based method works by replacing 'like–for- like' could also facilitate the constitution of step-change enhancement in current cell-based surgical approaches, thus repairing damaged cartilage and leading to long-term patient outcomes.