Tissue engineers at Johns Hopkins University have successfully utilized tiny fiber scaffolds to aid stem cells in developing into the shock-absorbing cartilage that exists around elbows and knees. The researchers believe the results hold promise for devising new techniques to help the millions of Americans who currently suffer from joint pain.
"Joint pain affects the quality of life of millions of people. Rather than just patching the problem with short-term fixes, like surgical procedures such as microfracture, we're building a temporary template that mimics the cartilage cell's natural environment, and taking advantage of nature's signals to biologically repair cartilage damage," says Jennifer Elisseeff, Ph.D., Jules Stein Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Cartilage, like many other vital tissues and organs in the body, is not able to naturally repair itself. The utility of regenerative medicine lies in the promise of regenerating these types of tissues that were once thought to be permanently damaged. Stem cells used in treatments and therapies are ideally autologous in nature - meaning the stem cells are derived from the patient's own body. Autologous stem cells eliminate the possibility of rejection and minimize significantly patient dependency on immuno-suppressant drugs.
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