Mimicking Human Cartilage to Repair a Knee

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ONE way for surgeons to repair injured knees is to take cartilage and bone from another part of the knee and transplant it in the damaged area.

Now companies are developing potentially simpler knee patches: small, off-the-shelf plugs engineered to mimic the composition of human bone and cartilage.

These ready-made cylinders can be inserted in an arthroscopic procedure; they are often used after a sports injury. They are known as osteochondral scaffolds, because they support new bone and cartilage as it grows.

Orthomimetics, a company in Cambridge, England, has developed a scaffold approved for use in Europe that resulted from a collaboration between faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Cambridge.

The scaffold provides a temporary, engineered matrix when inserted into a drilled hole, said Lorna Gibson, a professor of materials science and engineering at M.I.T. and one of the inventors of the device. Stem cells from the bone marrow that can form bone or cartilage impregnate the pores of the cylinder.

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