New Fixes for Worn Knees

Scientists test implanting an artificial meniscus or inducing the body to grow a new one

Scientists have created artificial replacements for arms, legs, joints and other body parts. But developing an artificial meniscus—the shock-absorbing cartilage pad in the knee that millions of people damage every year—has eluded modern medicine.

Researchers are now tantalizingly close to achieving that goal, a step that could help stave off more serious problems, including arthritis and knee-replacement surgery, in later years.

Drake Ross, a 54-year-old bank examiner in Columbus, Ohio, this year became the first American to have a synthetic meniscus, called NUsurface, implanted in his knee as part of a clinical trial.

And scientists from New York’s Cornell and Columbia universities have successfully tested in sheep a method of growing a new meniscus inside the knee joint using a 3-D printer and the body’s own stem cells. They hope to begin testing the technique in people soon.

Either method would be a “game changer—no question,” says Nicholas DiNubile, a knee specialist in Havertown, Pa., and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “But it’s a tall order. You’re trying to replace Mother Nature here. We’ve been burned before.”


Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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