Swiss physicians write in The Lancet that cartilage cells harvested from the noses of 10 adults successfully produced cartilage transplants that were used to help repair their knee joints.

Two years after undergoing reconstructive surgery, most of the patients (ages 18 to 55 years) reported improvements in pain, knee function, and quality of life. They also were able to develop repair tissue that was similar to their native cartilage.

In the phase 1 study that included 10 patients with full-thickness cartilage lesions of the knee, researchers from the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland extracted a small biopsy specimen (6mm in diameter) from the nasal septum under local anaesthetic using a minimally invasive procedure. The harvested cells were multiplied by exposing them to growth factors for 2 weeks. The expanded cells were then seeded onto collagen membranes and cultured for 2 additional weeks, generating a 30 x 40mm cartilage graft. The engineered graft was then cut into the right shape and used to replace damaged cartilage that was surgically removed from the recipient’s knee, explains a media release from The Lancet.

Despite variable degrees of defect filling, MRI scans at 2 years revealed the development of new tissue with similar compositional properties of native cartilage. Moreover, nine recipients (one was excluded because of several independent sports injuries) reported substantial improvements in the use of their knee and in the amount of pain compared to before surgery. No adverse reactions were reported, although two serious adverse events unrelated to the procedure were recorded — an independent injury in the opposite knee and new cartilage lesions at other locations in the treated knee, the release continues.

“Our findings confirm the safety and feasibility of cartilage grafts engineered from nasal cells to repair damaged knee cartilage. But use of this procedure in everyday clinical practice is still a long way off as it requires rigorous assessment of efficacy in larger groups of patients and the development of manufacturing strategies to ensure cost effectiveness,” says lead author Ivan Martin, professor of tissue engineering at the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, in the release.

“Moreover, in order to extend the potential use of this technique to older people or those with degenerative cartilage pathologies like osteoarthritis, a lot more fundamental and pre-clinical research work needs to be done,” Martin adds.

[Source(s): The Lancet, Science Daily]