Using adult stem cells is a good way of culturing better-quality cartilage to repair worn hips and knees. New cartilage that has good properties can be grown in particular by cultivating adult stem cells in combination with a small quantity of cells from the patient's own cartilage. In the long run this increases the likelihood of a cartilage implant being successful, provided it is carried out in time. These are the findings put forward by PhD student Nicole Georgi, who did her research at the University of Twente's MIRA Institute for Biomechanical Technology and Technical Medicine. She is to receive her PhD on 22 March.
Over a million people in the Netherlands have pain in their hips or knees due to osteoarthritis, i.e. wear and tear and damage to cartilage. In many cases a prosthesis is needed, as cartilage does not heal readily. Experiments with implanting cartilage cells are taking place on a limited scale: these involve culturing a few cartilage cells from the patient outside the body so as to grow a quantity of tissue, which is then replaced to repair the damage. The results have been mixed: outside the body the cells are seen to lose some of their functionality, with the result that, once replaced in the body, the elastic matrix characteristic of cartilage is not formed properly, for example.