A cartilage is a strong and flexible connective tissue that protects the bones and joints in our body. It functions as a shock absorber, reducing the friction between joints and the bones and preventing them from rubbing against each other.
Cartilage injuries are one of the most common results of sports injuries and other traumas in response to repetitive movements or aging. Cartilage injuries mostly occur in the knee, but can also affect the hip, ankle, wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
People with cartilage injuries or cartilage damage are said to experience joint pain, stiffness, inflammation, and reduced range of motion. This article will discuss a few innovative treatments that are available for cartilage injuries.
Innovative Treatments For Cartilage Injuries – Explored
The conservative treatment for cartilage injuries includes physiotherapy, steroidal injections, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
However, in recent years, with the advancement of science and technology, we have witnessed a few effective innovative treatments for cartilage injuries, such as:
👉 Platelet-rich plasma (PRP): It is a new multifaceted treatment option that can treat everything from osteoarthritis, damaged tendons, hair loss, and aging skin.
It is a simple process, where the blood is drawn from the individual and is spun in a centrifuge. Centrifugation separates the platelets and gets concentrated in the plasma, which is the liquid part of the blood. Then this platelet-rich plasma is injected into the damaged tissue. The growth factors, anti-inflammatory proteins, and signaling molecules in the platelets boost the healing and improve symptoms.
This treatment option is considered safe as PRP is made from the individual’s own blood. However, it has a few drawbacks. Firstly, the results may vary depending on the preparation method and other external factors and secondly, it just modifies the symptoms without regenerating the tissue.
👉 Autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue (AMAT or MFAT): In this treatment, we use a similar technique as the PRP. Here, we remove a small amount of fat from the patient’s belly through liposuction which is then washed and micro-fragmented. It is then injected back into the affected area. The fat contains stem cells and pericytes that act like adult stem cells. Research has found that micro-fragmented fat can improve cartilage injuries and osteoarthritis regardless of the age and severity of the condition. Again, the results can vary according to the treatment method.
👉 Stem cell therapy: Almost all research facilities in every country are carrying out clinical trials using stem cells to find cure for many ailments as it has great potential to repair and regenerate damaged tissue.
In this treatment, the adult stem cells are extracted from the bone marrow or fat and are concentrated and injected into the knee or affected area. Many people who have undergone this treatment have avoided knee surgery and have found a permanent cure for pain and cartilage damage.
Considering the fact that cartilage can’t regenerate on its own and contains no stem cells, this study can potentially help millions of people with osteoarthritis.
👉 Spherox: Spherox is a new advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP) composed of spheroids, which are spherical aggregates of chondrocytes. Chondrocytes are cells that are found in healthy cartilage. In this therapy, a small piece of the cartilage is removed from the healthy cartilage, and chondrocyte spheroids are then synthesized in the laboratory. Later, these spheroids are inserted into the patient’s knee arthroscopically to induce tissue repair and regeneration.
This treatment has shown outstanding results in both 18 to 50 and older adults. They have reported significant improvement in all knee-related issues, sports and recreational activities, and quality of life.
However, there are a few side effects and safety considerations to this therapy. It can delay healing and cause joint effusion and inflammation. Additionally, it demands 60 months of follow-ups in patients who have undergone the treatment.
👉 Marrow stimulation: This is a surgical procedure, where the surgeon will drill tiny holes under the cartilage, exposing the blood vessels inside the bones. This forces the blood to form clots inside the cartilage and triggers the formation of new cartilage. The blood clot eventually matures to firm repair tissue.
A major drawback is an increased healing time and reduced durability compared to the original cartilage.
Cartilage injuries are serious medical conditions that could affect our daily activities and quality of life. Various treatment modalities and techniques have been reported and established in the past few years in the field of cartilage injury treatment. The above-mentioned techniques are just a few of the newly established ones.
At present, scientists are expanding it to include gene therapy and gene editing techniques. In the next several decades, we are expected to see more advancements and innovations in treating cartilage damage and injuries.