"The treatment is safe and feasible," study co-author Dr. Ivan Martin told CNN.
Between 2004 and 2011, nearly 2 million Americans had knee surgery due to cartilage problems. As the population ages, these surgeries will become increasingly common.
Martin, a professor of surgery and biomedicine at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, has been working on a new way to repair knees since 2001. His latest procedure uses engineered cartilage tissue grown from the nasal septum of the patient. He said that nasal cells “have a larger and more reproducible capacity to form new cartilage.”
"We further established that the cartilage tissue generated by nasal chondrocytes (one type of cell) can respond to physical forces (mechanical loads) similar to articular cartilage and has the 'plasticity' to adapt to a joint environment," Martin told CNN. In one of their pre-tests for the current study, he implanted engineered tissue into goat joints and found it "efficiently integrated with surrounding articular cartilage."
For the new study, Martin used 10 patients from 18 to 55 that had cartilage problems in their knees. The team extracted a 6-millimeter biopsy specimen from the nasal septum, using local anesthetic. Then the harvested celled were exposed to growth factors for two weeks.
After an additional two weeks, Martin’s team was able to craft a 30-by-40 millimeter cartilage graft. Surgeons then implanted it as a replacement for damaged knee cartilage.
None of the patients reported side effects related to the experimental surgery. CNN reported.