With the number of knee replacement surgeries soaring in the United States, researchers at the University of Iowa are working on an injectable gel that could repair damaged cartilage and make many knee surgeries unnecessary.
"We are creating an [injectable, bioactive] hydrogel that can repair cartilage damage, regenerate stronger cartilage, and hopefully delay or eliminate the development of osteoarthritis and eliminate the need for total knee replacement," says Yin Yu, a graduate student at the University of Iowa (UI) whose study is featured in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint disorder that leads to thinning of cartilage and progressive joint damage. Nearly 40 percent of Americans over the age of 45 have some degree of knee OA, and those numbers are expected to grow as the population ages.
About 600,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed annually in the U.S. – about twice the number performed 20 years ago. Recent studies have questioned whether many of the surgeries are appropriate.
UI researchers have previously identified precursor cells in healthy cartilage that can mature into new cartilage tissue – a surprising development given the long-held assumption that cartilage is one of the few tissues in the body that cannot repair itself.
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