Many people undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in their knee. However, certain tears can’t be fixed or won’t heal well, and osteoarthritis can develop later as a result of the injury.

Scientists have tried developing scaffolds or structures from various materials, including plastic and textile fibers, to lay a foundation for new cells.
In a study published recently in the journal Scientific Reports, Duke scientists describe a more organic model — a scaffold derived from a pig’s meniscus, which performed better in lab tests than healing without a scaffold.
“A partial meniscus removal is one of the most commonly performed orthopedic surgeries in the US,” says Amy McNulty, PhD, an assistant professor in orthopedic surgery at Duke and senior author of the paper, in a media release from Duke University Medical Center.
“The damaged tissue must be cut out because it’s causing pain or catching, but when the tissue comes out it also alters load-bearing in the knee and often leads to osteoarthritis, so it would be beneficial to try and heal the meniscus in place using a tool like a scaffold,” McNulty adds.
In lab tests, repairs aided by the scaffold resulted in a stronger meniscus repair after 4 weeks compared to a meniscus that went through the natural healing process.
A scaffold could be especially valuable when the meniscus tears near the inside of the crescent-shaped tissue where blood doesn’t flow. Without a blood supply, a tear in this section won’t mend and the tissue is often removed, McNulty shares.
The pig-derived scaffold is advantageous over other models, including synthetics, because it is processed without chemicals or enzymes, which helps it retain more natural properties, McNulty suggests in the release. Also, the structure is more porous than other models and even regular meniscus tissue, which allows new cells to move into it more easily to integrate with damaged tissue.
“Cells from the native tissue appear to be naturally attracted to the scaffold — they want to move into it,” McNulty states.
“Hopefully, this will lead one day to a scaffold being placed into different tears to augment healing and seamlessly integrate the pieces of damaged tissue.”
The next step is testing the scaffold in animal models and eventually in humans, she concludes, in the release.
[Source(s): Duke University Medical Center, Science Daily]