Two new surgical procedures being performed on animals may alter the methods surgeons use to repair damaged cartilage and meniscus tears in human knees and other joints. If these trials produce the desired results in animals, then they can be approved for use in humans. The team of surgeons and researchers involved in these trials is comprised of medical staff from Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare Systems’ Hospital for Special Surgery, and an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, who also works with the New York Giants football team.
The first of these procedures is being used to repair cartilage in horses by surgically inserting an off-the-shelf biocompatible support system into the cartilage to repair damage and to prevent the onset of arthritis. Most cartilage defects are a result of overuse or a traumatic episode such as a crucial ligament tear or rupture. There is currently no workable repair for cartilage once torn, nor does it heal on its own, so this surgery is quite important.
Another team is attempting meniscus repair on sheep. The meniscus is also unable to heal on its own once it has been torn or has deteriorated. The current treatment uses cadaver tissue that is difficult to acquire, harder to match, and often carries disease. This new technique requires doing an MRI scan of the patient’s joint and then custom-designing the replacement parts. The researchers accomplish this by using a 3-D printer to manufacture an artificial meniscus that is perfectly tailored to the patient’s body.
Similarly, a professor of dental medicine at Columbia University, Jeremy Mao, developed a meniscus transplant method made from biodegradable polyester and growth hormones. Also using an MRI scan and a 3-D printer, they build an individualized meniscus. Once transplanted, the new meniscus recruits the body’s own stem cells for healing. The entire project will entail a control group of 60 such surgeries and will continue to test growth hormones levels.
Both of these new procedures are greatly anticipated because they show enormous promise in an area that is of huge concern that doesn’t have any real solutions.