How Nose Cells Help In Repairing Damaged Knee Cartilage?

Topic Overview

It has been observed in various studies conducted that nose cells can be used to repair damaged knee cartilage. According to an article published in The Lancet, a small study done on about 10 people with damaged knee cartilage physicians harvested nose cells from these individuals and transplanted them into the damaged knees in hopes of promoting formation of new cartilage. Within a span of two years after the transplantation, of the 10 patients majority of them had developed healthy new cartilage which was similar to that of a normal knee cartilage that had been damaged.[1]

The participants also reported significant improvement in their quality of life and knee function. There was also substantial improvement in pain reported by the participants. The scientists however opine that even though the results of the studies are extremely promising and this approach is considered to be safe and cost effective and thus more studies need to be conducted before it can be approved for use in large population of patients.[1]

This opinion is based on the small population of patients who participated in the study. The focus is now on conducting randomized trials on a large group of patients and more prolonged followups to get a better understanding of the efficacy of this form of treatment.[1]

Additionally, the lead author of the article Ivan Martin who is a professor of tissue engineering at the University of Basel in Switzerland, where this study was conducted, states that to see the effects of this latest technique in people with degenerative conditions affecting the knees a lot of research work still needs to be done. This article highlights more information about how nose cells can be used in replacing damaged knee cartilage for improved knee function[1]

How Nose Cells Help In Repairing Damaged Knee Cartilage?

Studies estimate that about 2 million people in the United States have a damaged knee cartilage or suffer from conditions that damage the cartilage of the knees. This is mostly caused by an injury or trauma due to an accident. Anatomically speaking, articular cartilage is defined as a layer of tissue that is present at the end of bones which acts as a lubricant during movement of the joint. It also prevents the bones of the joints from rubbing against each other[1]

With time and age, the thickness of the tissue decreases to an extent that the cartilage becomes damaged causing pain and limited motion of the joints such as seen with osteoarthritis. If the cartilage gets damaged it cannot regenerate back since there is no blood supply to it. There are certain medical approaches like microfracture surgery which can delay the progression of wearing off of the cartilage, especially after an accident or injury to the knee but they cannot regenerate the cartilage and eventually the damaged cartilage wears off.[1]

Some physicians have attempted to use chondrocytes from the joints of patients in order to make new cartilage in the joints but the efficacy of this procedure has been questionable and even if they have been successful in some cases the new tissue that forms does not function the way it should. This is where this new study has proved to be different. Professor Martin and team used cells from a site that was distant from the affected joint which was the nose and used to generate new cartilage in the affected knee.[1]

The study showed that these cells had the ability to grow new and healthy cartilage tissue. These new tissues were very close to the original cartilage in both composition and function. To analyze the effects of this procedure 10 patients were selected with damaged knee cartilage with age ranging from 20-60 years. For the study, a biopsy of the nasal septum was taken. Using this biopsy samples, new chondrocytes were grown by stimulation with growth factor. It took about a couple of weeks for the chondrocytes to grow.[1]

The new cells were then seeded on to a support structure made of collagen and allowed them to grow for another couple of weeks. This resulted in the formation of a thick graft of new cartilage. This new cartilage was then replaced with the damaged one by way of a surgical procedure and was cut into proper shape and size. The participants of the study were followed by routine radiographs and careful examination for a period of two years.[1]

After this time frame, radiographs clearly showed growth of new cartilage which was similar in composition and function to that of the old one. Nine out of the ten participants reported significant improvement in the function and quality of life of the people. There was also significant reduction of pain reported. The lone participant who was excluded suffered from a sporting injury that was in no way related to the study performed had comparatively less improvement.[1]

The participants did not report any adverse effects from the procedure; however, there were two cases of a reinjury which was not related to the procedure. This proved that cells taken from the nose effectively replaced a damaged knee cartilage with significant improvement in the functioning of the knee and improving the quality of life of patients.[1]

Another article published on this study by Dr. Nicole Rotter from University of Ulm in Germany admits that this study is a significant advancement made in field of cartilage repair by less invasive techniques. They cite the reason for this is that the cells for growth of the cartilage were taken from a site that was far away from the affected area. Thus, the risk for any cell harvesting that may affect the joint is completely ruled out. The authors also mention that there is no age barrier for the procedure and people of any age can undergo the cartilage transplant.[1]

This comes as good news for the elderly who have been functioning poorly as a result of damaged knee cartilage. However, they also mention that the study conducted was very small and more randomized and controlled trials are needed to further substantiate the results of the study. The primary concern for scientists is the quality of the tissue that will be transplanted.[1]

This needs to be further looked at before this form of treatment can gain preference and possibly approval for clinical use. The scientists however are quite optimistic stating that the findings have confirmed the safety and feasibility of the cartilage transplant to the knees.[1]

However, using this procedure in common population is something that is being looked at in the future. This will solely depend on the results of the study conducted on a large group of patients and managing the cost effectiveness of the procedure.[1]

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