Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) is a condition which makes it difficult to chew on food and talk, while being quite painful and unpleasant. It’s caused by the breakdown of the cartilage disc that brings together two bones of the jaw.
Researchers from University of California, Irvine, University of California, Davis, and The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston have now developed a way of taking tissue from a rib of one animal, separating out cartilage cells, and then used those cells to grow a new replacement cartilage that can be implanted into another animal. By the way, this is because transplanted cartilage doesn’t seem to activate the immune system like other transplanted tissues usually do.
This was already successfully tried on miniature pigs, completely alleviating the defects originating from TMJ. The pigs that did not receive the same treatment exhibited a continuing degradation of the jaw and a multi-fold increase in local osteoarthritis.
“This is the first time that cogent healing has been shown in the TMJ area and, I dare say, the first time anyone has shown successful biomechanical healing in any joint,” said lead researcher Kyriacos Athanasiou in a statement. “It’s key that we can achieve regeneration of an ailing tissue with our engineered implant, one that’s mechanically suited to withstand stresses. So we believe this represents an important first in all joint healing studies.”
The research has a lot of additional potential in treating other joint conditions that affect the shoulders, knees, and hips. “We hope this will lead to new treatments for humans,” said Natalia Vapniarsky, a veterinary pathologist at UC Davis. “Most medical management approaches for TMJ disc issues currently aren’t curative but palliative. Patients come back needing further help, but by that time, the disc and joint are destroyed beyond repair, so all that can be offered is a prosthetic. We wanted to explore an earlier, regenerative solution.”
Study in Science Translational Medicine: Tissue engineering toward temporomandibular joint disc regeneration…