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Longevity Briefs: Regenerating Damaged Cartilage

Posted on 14 September 2020

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Articular cartilage is a complex tissue that provides a slippery, shock-absorbing cushion between bones at the joints. When this cartilage becomes damaged or wears thin with age, bones can rub directly against each other, causing pain and inflammation, which can eventually result in arthritis. Unfortunately, adult articular cartilage has very little capacity to regenerate itself.

What did the researchers do: Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine used a technique called microfracture, in which tiny holes are drilled in the surface of a joint, to treat damaged cartilage in mice. This process usually results in the growth of a tissue called fibrocartilage that lacks many of the important qualities normal cartilage. However, the researchers wanted to see if they could direct cells to produce normal cartilage instead, by administering signalling molecules at specific times during the growth process.

Key takeaway(s) from this research:  Microfracture with the administrtration of signalling molecules generated cartilage that was made of the same sort of cells as natural cartilage, with comparable mechanical properties. It also made mice with osteoarthritis more mobile and significantly reduced their pain. This approach also worked on human cells transplanted into mice. Future research will investigate whether the technique can regenerate cartilage in human joints, potentially preventing arthritis from developing.

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