Every year, approximately 1.7 million people in the U.S. and Europe tear a meniscus – children and athletes are especially prone to such injuries. But first, just what is a meniscus? It’s one of two pieces of cartilage located inside each knee, that provide a cushion between the tibia and the femur. While smaller tears can heal on their own, larger tears often require a partial or complete removal of the meniscus. Within several years, this can result in the early onset of osteoarthritis. Recently, a new type of stem cell-seeded bandage, developed at the University of Bristol, has been approved for a clinical trial on meniscal tears. It may greatly reduce the need for menisectomies.
Damage to knee cartilage is one of the more common types of sports injuries. Treatment often involves drilling a hole through the cartilage into the bone to stimulate the bone marrow to release stem cells, transplanting cartilage and the underlying bone from another part of the joint, or removing cartilage cells from the body, stimulating them to grow in the lab and re-implanting them. Now MIT engineers have built a new tissue scaffold that can stimulate bone and cartilage growth when transplanted into knees and other joints, potentially offering a more effective, less expensive – and painful – option to more conventional therapies.