UC Davis LogoCartilage is believed to be an extremely rare tissue that does not have the capability to repair itself. When damaged by injury or osteoarthritis, the effects could be lifelong and devastating.

A research claims that damaged knee joints might someday be mended with cartilage developed from stem cells in a laboratory. This research was performed by Professor Kyriacos Athanasiou, chair of the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering and his colleagues.

Athanasiou and his team have already developed cartilage tissue in the lab, via adult stem cells from bone marrow and skin as well as human embryonic stem cells. Now they are experimenting with a variety of chemical and mechanical stimuli to enhance its properties.

Athanasiou commented, “If I cut a tiny line on articular cartilage (the cartilage that covers the surfaces of bones at joints), it will never be erased. It’s like writing on the moon. If I go back to look at it a year later, it will look exactly the same.”

Athanasio mentioned, “This will be live, biological cartilage that will not only fill defects, but will potentially be able to resurface the entire surface of joints that have been destroyed by osteoarthritis.”

Presently, joint replacements by means of metal and plastic prosthetics are said to be the only option for one in five adults who may experience major joint damage from osteoarthritis.

Work that Athanasiou’s group started in the early 1990s at Rice University have apparently led to the only FDA-approved products for treatment of small lesions on articular cartilage. In total, Athanaisou’s patents have led to 15 FDA-approved products.