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Posted: February 12, 2010
In vivo engineering of organs
(Nanowerk News) Injuries to joints and cartilage can have serious consequences, including osteoarthritis. Cartilage degeneration in joints is a widespread disease in Germany and worldwide. Prof. Dr. Prasad Shastri is an expert in tissue engineering (TE), tissue construction and tissue cultivation using the body’s own cells. He is Professor of Biofunctional Macromolecular Chemistry at the Centre for Biological Signalling Studies (BIOSS), a Cluster of Excellence at the University of Freiburg, where he has been researching for the last year. Together with peers from Maastricht and Nashville, he has developed a fast and cost-efficient method for producing sufficient amounts of bone and cartilage tissue using the body’s own cells ("In vivo engineering of organs: The bone bioreactor").
Damage to larger joints such as knees, feet, hips and shoulders is often the beginning of a painful process during which mobility continues to decrease. Because cartilage cannot regenerate after the body has stopped growing, defects caused by injuries and “wear and tear” cannot be absorbed by producing new cartilage. Genetic engineering and molecular biology have now made it possible to remove healthy cartilage cells and grow these outside the body in special solutions. This cartilage tissue is then applied to the defective cartilage where it attaches and grows.
Repairing cartilage and bone damage using the body’s own cells is still a difficult process. Cultivating the body’s own tissue is still time-consuming and expensive, and much time is needed until the implant has reached its desired functionality. In their article published in the renown American journal PNAS, Dr. Prasad Shastri and his co-authors present a strategy for the “de novo engineering” of cartilage and bone tissue which requires only three weeks.
The scientists even successfully generated large pieces of bone tissue using Agarose gel, a common biomaterial in biochemistry. The gel is injected into the double membrane surface on bones, using this space as a biological reactor. According to the main argument in the article, the resulting lack of oxygen (hypoxia) in that confinement induces and stimulates the development of bone tissue and cartilage. Studies have shown that the cultivated cartilage tissue adapts well to its new environment and shows no signs of calcification even after nine months.