Engineering 101

Bad Knees? Regrow Knee Cartilage via Piezoelectricity

As one who is moving closer to a knee replacement, I hope this is available soon. Translational Medicine. Once cartilage deteriorates, it’s bone on bone, which is extremely painful. However, UConn bioengineers successfully regrew cartilage in a rabbit’s knee, publishing their research in a recent Journal of Science.

So far, attempts at regrowing cartilage have not worked, as the cartilage breaks down under normal joint stress. The team discovered that electrical signals are key to normal growth with this research. They designed a tissue scaffold from nanofibers of poly-L lactic acid (PLLA), a biodegradable polymer often used to stitch surgical wounds. The nanomaterial has piezoelectricity. It produces a little burst of electrical current that encourages cells to colonize it and grow into robust cartilage when squeezed.

Tested on the knee of an injured rabbit, the animal was allowed to hop on a treadmill to exercise after the scaffold was implanted, and the cartilage grew back normally. Of course, my knee(s) will be replaced traditionally as this will take a while to come to market.

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