Researchers at Rice Univesity have discovered that extremely high atmospheric pressure applied to cartilage tissue actually helps it regrow.
In the study, Elder [Benjamin Elder, doctorate student at Rice –ed.] took small samples of cartilage from calves’ knees, dissolved the ECM and isolated the living cartilage cells, or chondrocytes. The calf chondrocytes were used to create tissue-engineered cartilage. The engineered cartilage was placed into a chemical bath of growth factors and sealed inside soft plastic containers that were placed inside a chamber connected to a hydraulic press. For one hour per day, the bags were squeezed at intense pressures.
“Our knees are filled with fluid, and when we walk or run the hydrostatic pressure on the cartilage cells in the knee approaches the pressures we used in our experiments,” Elder said. “But in daily activities, these pressures are fleeting, just a second or so at a time.”
Most of the prevailing strategies in tissue engineering attempt to reproduce the conditions that cells experience in the body. Athanasiou [Kyriacos Athanasiou, Rice’s Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Bioengineering –ed.] said the unconventional approach of using unnaturally high-pressure stemmed from insights gained during years of previous experiments.
Elder said, “By combining high pressure and growth factors, we were able to more than triple the biomechanical properties of the cartilage. We’re not sure why they reinforce one another, but we do not get the same results when we apply them independently.”
Press release: Cartilage regeneration ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ …
Article in PLoS ONE
Image credit: Wellcome images: Network of collagen fibrils…