Hip replacement may have an alternative in sight. The National Academy of Sciences has revealed that it might be possible to use the patient’s own stem cells in the growth of cartilage for the hip joint in that shape. The team included researchers from the Washington University of Medicine, believe it’s possible to program the grown cartilage into releasing anti-inflammatory molecules to relieve pain in the hip such as arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the main cause of joint damage in the hip and usually requires hip replacement surgery. This disease causes great amounts of pain and disability of the patients. Hip replacement surgery is also known as arthroplasty and involves the removal of the diseased part of the hip through surgery with the replacement of prosthetic parts. Every year the US has more than 332,000 replacement surgeries that are performed.
Patients who require hip replacement surgery below the age of 50 would most likely require a second replacement as the prosthesis usually lasts about 20 years. Most doctors are wary about doing this kind of surgery in younger patients as it increases the risk of infection and may cause damage to the adjacent bone.
Due to the concerns, there is an alternative need for hip replacement surgery of which it is believed that there is one available. Not only can this therapy assist with this but also against arthritis returning. Researchers can extract stem cells from fat under the skin and new cartilage can be grown from those stem cells.
The grown cartilage
The cartilage is grown on a 3-D plastic scaffold which can be molded to the exact shape of the patient’s hip. This scaffold is then implanted onto the surface of the damaged hip joint. This will alleviate pain and delay the hip replacement surgery or halt it all together.
The scaffold is created with 600 biodegradable bundles fibers that are woven to produce a hardy fabric to act like normal cartilage. The implants are made to withstand 10 times the patient’s body weight which is what the body is able to do especially for exercise.
The gene inserted in the new cartilage has the ability to trigger and anti-inflammatory to assist with pain and stop arthritis from returning to the patient. A drug will trigger the gene which can be stopped at any time. The gene therapy competent is key as the inflammation may cause pain and damage the cartilage. Having this in the cartilage will increase protection of the hip and promote its long-term functioning.
These researchers believe that their implant can provide an extremely important alternative to hip replacement surgery required in millions of patients that have osteoarthritis. Many of these patients are younger than the age of 45. The team have started testing this therapy in animals and should the experiment be successful, human trials can start in the next 3 – 5 years.