Have you ever thought about the incredible weight bearing capacity our joints exhibit? Their strength and flexibility is essentially due to a white shiny material, identified to be the cartilage; which acts as a cushion to resist friction between bones. However, over the period of time, while protecting the bone, cartilage takes up all the beatings and gets damaged. Unfortunately, once damaged articular cartilage cannot regenerate due to insufficient supply of oxygenated blood. The mentioned progressive degeneration of a tissue, if left untreated, can have serious side effects, such as stiff, at times swollen and painful joints.
However, some experts could discover modern techniques to rapid regeneration of damaged cartilages. Although, these regenerative techniques can be employed for multiple joints facing the issue of articular cartilaginous degeneration; statistics have shown that they are most frequently applied for knee joints or knee pain. Research has further suggested that application of stem cell therapy, in order to repair and regenerate damaged part of cartilage, works well in case of younger patients with recent issue.
There are multiple methods, which allow partial and/or complete regeneration of a cartilage; and can be noted as:
Chondroplasty, it is being identified as a minimally invasive technique; wherein the friction between the bones and the joints is minimized by sharpening the cartilages with the help of a special tool. Further to which, some loose pieces of joints are being cleared by flushing out the joints, using joint debridement.
However, the procedure intends to wash out damaged cartilages; and is only applicable for less severe damage and would never be a permanent solution.
Autologous Chondrocytes Implantation, in a modern world of technology, if you are facing an issue of a single defective cartilage at a very young age; then ACI can be the solution for you. The procedure is divided into two steps; wherein the healthy cartilage is being extracted from different parts, particularly other non weight bearing joints through a minimally invasive procedure. The cells are then cultured in the laboratory, which require approximately 6-8 weeks and are then infused back on the affected area.
Although, the process is effective in minimizing pain and delaying further damage; it is not being chosen many times, due to long waiting period and the cost.
Cartilage Transplants, the transplant option is being optimized with extraction of small plugs of healthy cartilages from other parts of the knee and directly implanting them on the damaged area. The size of the transplant is always variable depending upon the area of damage.
Although, the option is widely used in current therapeutic modalities; it is not advisable due to the cost associated with transplants and longer recovery period. Moreover, if the transplants from cadavers are used, then there is always a chance of other opportunistic infections.
Stem cells and PRP mix, wide data base and large patient review suggests that all the options discussed above have limited therapeutic effects and variable outcomes. However, the two options such as stem cells stimulated with autologous platelet mixes are showing promising results in successfully treating musculoskeletal disorders. They apparently guide body’s immune cells to be friendly with other cells and allow prompt regeneration as well as rapid healing of damaged cartilages.
Although, scientists are still working to explore better ways to implant these mixes on the affected parts and are trying to collect larger clinical evidences to prove that the therapies are effective- but there is a great potential and perfect these therapies.