A recently published study investigates how pigs’ knees compare to humans’ knees, and how this knowledge can advance injury treatment in young people.

“There’s a lot we still don’t know about how human knees work at different stages of maturity,” says Matthew Fisher, corresponding author of the study, published recently in Journal of Orthopaedic Research.

“What we’ve developed is a model that will allow us—or any research team—to study changes in the knee joint using pig knees,” adds Fisher, who is an assistant professor in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at NC State and UNC.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve clinical treatment of joint injuries in children and teens, given the increased participation in sports and rise of injuries, such as to the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL,” he continues, in a media release from North Carolina State University. “We’re specifically focused on changes that take place during the growth process—such as changes in the placement and orientation of ligaments during growth.”

In the study, the researchers examined the pig knees at six stages of growth, between birth and 18 months—which is comparable to early adulthood in humans. They then compared the growth stages found in pigs to the available data on human knee growth.

“We focused on how the orientation of knee ligaments changes over time,” states Stephanie Cone, lead author of the paper and a PhD student in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. “And we found that the transitions in ligament orientation we saw in pig knees at various stages of maturity mapped very closely to the existing research on humans at comparable stages of maturity.”

“We’re excited about the potential for this model, but tracking ligament orientation using MRIs is really only a starting point,” Fisher shares. “Our next steps include testing the pig knees mechanically in order to help us better understand how they move at various stages of growth: which joint components bear load, how these elements interact, and so on.

“A number of things change as we mature, but we are still trying to clarify the details—and those details can eventually inform future clinical practice,” he adds in the release. “In fact, surgeons can use the pig model to test new surgical approaches for children and adolescents.”

[Source(s): North Carolina State University, Science Daily]