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Scientists Stave Off Osteoarthritis with 3D Printed Stem Cells

Woman's knee hampered by osteoarthritis symptomsToo put it plainly, our knees are a very complex joints. Although some might argue that the human knee hasn’t adapted well to the average level of stress that our extended lifelines and expanded waistlines now put on them. This is one of the reasons that osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is the leading cause of chronic disability in the country.

This form of arthritis can take hold of the knee joint as the cartilage is worn away. Unfortunately, there are many things that cause this degradation, so it’s quite difficult to combat.

Some of the leading causes of knee cartilage erosion include:

  • Physical trauma
  • Hereditary conditions and developmental disabilities
  • Long-term wear and tear

The end result is still very much the same no matter how erosion has occurred. Without the cushion that cartilage naturally provides, the femur and the tibia begin to grind against each other with the full force of your weight behind it. Even people who haven’t been diagnosed with OA can imagine that this is not a pleasant feeling.

(We’d also like to let our readers know that we are currently enrolling people for an osteoarthritis clinical trial if you want to learn more here.)

How Do You Replace Human Cartilage?

Arthritis related research has shown us many things, but we still don’t know of a substance that provides a more effective barrier than human cartilage does. Many experts devote their entire careers into designing better ways to produce new forms of cartilage that can be used to repair worn out joints.

Several ideas have been investigated and inevitably been found lacking in one way or another– until now. Scientists are working on a theory that involves using 3D printing technology to deposit stem cells directly into the worn out parts of the cartilage. The idea is that this would help reinforce them as healthy tissue once again.

Dr. Rocky Tuan, a scientist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, has been developing a technique that shows a lot of promise. His personalized technique will provide these stems cells with the optimal conditions they require to grow and thrive as healthy cartilage, especially the type of 3D bio-printed scaffolding that is used to anchor the stem cells in place allowing the tissue to take the correct shape as it grows.

Treating OA Symptoms in the Near Future

Dr. Tuan envisions a day in the near future where surgeons will be able to 3D print stable stem cell structures directly into the joint via a catheter. If this procedure sounds familiar, then it’s probably because of the BioPen procedure. The main difference with this new technique is that normal light is used in contrast to UV light, which can damage neighboring healthy cells.

First, Tuan needs to optimize the effectiveness and resilience of the available scaffolding material with the help of a nanofiber electrospinning technique. Osteoarthritis can be extremely debilitating, but the average patient has access to a nominal amount of wealth. This means that research teams have become quite aware of the potential there is in finding a cure for OA. It might be fair to say that this disease’s days are numbered.

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