Scientists Developing Injectable Gel For Torn Cartilage

Researchers hope it will help injured athletes return to competition faster

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THURSDAY, Dec. 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- An injectable gel designed to speed repair of torn cartilage so injured athletes can return to competition faster is being tested by researchers at MIT and Harvard Medical School.

Here's the procedure scientists say they've created to test the substance: First, a biodegradable liquid mixture that contains the athlete's own cartilage -producing cells is injected into the area of damaged cartilage. Ultraviolet light is then used to harden the mixture into a gel. This gel keeps the transplanted cartilage cells in place, where they help grow new cartilage.

"The gel itself won't initially replace damaged cartilage, but it will provide an optimum growth environment for implanted cartilage-producing cells so that new cartilage can be formed and help restore function," study author Jason A. Burdick, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of chemical engineering at MIT, said in a prepared statement.

This method may prove more effective and less invasive than some current techniques, such as surgery, used to repair torn cartilage, according to the researchers. Torn cartilage is a common sports injury that's extremely painful and hard to heal. It's most common in the knee joint.

Conventional treatments include rest, pain medication and, in some cases, invasive surgery to repair the cartilage.

The research is described in an article in the Jan. 10 issue of Biomacromolecules.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about torn knee ligaments.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, Dec. 9, 2004

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