Hip Joint Arthritis – Hope Around The Corner
Whilst tensions around Brexit heighten, an incredible discovery has slipped under the radar. Farshid Guilak and his team at the Washington University Center of Regenerative Medicine have engineered a way to re-create a biological hip joint from a patient’s own fat cells. This could be good news for Theresa May who endangers her joints with an eternal walk of shame out of number 10.
The new technology uses a 3D scaffold developed by Guilak’s team, which is then covered with a biologically engineered smart cartilage. This cartilage has a gene inserted which, when activated by a drug, releases anti-inflammatory chemicals that limit any damage of the cartilage or the joint itself. This stops what caused the arthritis in the first place.
“When there is inflammation, we can give a patient a simple drug, which activates the gene we’ve implanted, to lower inflammation in the joint,” said Guilak, a professor of developmental biology and of biomedical engineering. “We can stop giving the drug at any time, which turns off the gene.”
Ultimately this means the joint replacement could last much longer, a very valuable feature as “Replacing a failed prosthetic joint is a difficult surgery,” said Guilak, also a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Washington University.
The 3D scaffold is built to mimic the structure and properties of normal cartilage using a weaving pattern. Franklin Moutos, vice president of technology development at Cytex explained how fusing ~600 biodegradable fibre bundles creates the high-performance device.
Scientists are hoping this could revolutionise hip joint replacements, especially for younger individuals. Surgeons are reluctant to operate on those below 50 as the chances of early failure are much higher. There are hopes it will be rolled out to the mainstream healthcare system, let’s hope it happens soon to keep us out and exploring for just a little longer.
Moutos, F., Glass, K., Compton, S., Ross, A., Gersbach, C., Guilak, F. and Estes, B. (2016). Anatomically shaped tissue-engineered cartilage with tunable and inducible anticytokine delivery for biological joint resurfacing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(31), pp.E4513-E4522.
Author: Dr Sermed Mezher - A doctor in the Royal Sussex County Hospital with experience in surgery, pain relief and joint rehabilitation.