Scientists at the University of Southampton have developed a new way to create human cartilage tissue from stem cells. The method could pave the way for the development of a much-needed brand-new treatment for people with cartilage damage.
Cartilage acts as a shock absorber in joints, but it is susceptible to harm through everyday wear-and-tear, or trauma from sports injuries and falls. The current gold-standard surgical technique to restore regions of damaged cartilage, utilizing cartilage cells, is not entirely successful. This is because survival of the repair tissue, created by cartilage cells at the website of damage, has been shown to reduce substantially after 5-10 years. As such, there is a requirement for a new method to promote robust, long-term repair work through the implantation of cartilage tissue, rather than cartilage cells, at the site of damage.
They generated cartilage tissue in the lab by effectively differentiating embryonic stem cells into cartilage cells, and then used these to create three-dimensional pieces of cartilage tissue without any synthetic or natural supporting materials. The produced cartilage tissue is structurally and mechanically equivalent to typical human cartilage with the potential to form a stable and longer lasting repair than current treatment alternatives offered to clients.
There is a requirement for a brand-new way to promote robust, long-lasting repair through the implantation of cartilage tissue, as opposed to cartilage cells, at the website of damage.
Scientists at the Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and Regeneration believe they might have discovered the response. They generated cartilage tissue in the laboratory by effectively distinguishing embryonic stem cells into cartilage cells, and after that used these to create three-dimensional pieces of cartilage tissue with no synthetic or natural supporting products. This is called a scaffold-free cartilage tissue engineering technique. The produced cartilage tissue is structurally and mechanically equivalent to normal human cartilage with the prospective to form a steady and longer lasting repair than existing treatment options offered to clients.
The researchers are the first to use the scaffold-free method to generate cartilage tissue, which is scaled up beyond 1 mm without adversely impacting its structural and mechanical residential or commercial properties. The team hopes that eventually, after more research is performed, this lab produced tissue could be regularly used in surgery to repair broken cartilage.
The interdisciplinary research study, released in the journal Scientific Reports, was led by Dr. Franchesca Houghton and Dr Rahul Tare from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.
Dr. Houghton said: “This research study is interesting as our ability to create cartilage with homes akin to normal human cartilage has the potential to provide a robust tissue crafted product for cartilage repair work.”
Dr. Tare adds: “This tissue-based approach of replacing like-for-like has the potential to make up a step-change enhancement in current cell-based surgical approaches for repairing harmed cartilage and enhance long-lasting patient outcomes.”
Reference: “A scaffold-free approach to cartilage tissue generation using human embryonic stem cells” by Lauren A. Griffith, Katherine M. Arnold, Bram G. Sengers, Rahul S. Tare and Franchesca D. Houghton, 28 September 2021, Scientific Reports.DOI: 10.1038/ s41598-021-97934-9.
This research study was funded by the Institute for Life Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton; Rosetrees Trust; MRC CiC and EPSRC IAA.