October 27, 2023

Injectable gel shows promise for regenerating cartilage without surgery

Editor's Note

Researchers from University of Connecticut, Peking University School, and Eli Lilly & Company have designed an injectable gel that could someday provide scaffolds for human cartilage without surgery. The findings were published by Nature Communications on October 6. 

Some highlights include:

  • The injectable, biodegradable piezoelectric (electricity-producing) hydrogel can be injected into the joints and drives cartilage healing under ultrasound activation.
  • More than 500 million people around the world suffer from osteoarthritis, when the cartilage that cushions joints wears away and bone rubs against bone.
  • The knee is the most commonly affected joint, and the condition is often treated with surgery to remove damaged cartilage. Adults rarely regenerate cartilage unless a piezoelectric scaffold is surgically implanted.
  • In the study, researchers injected the gel into the knees of rabbits with damaged cartilage, applied ultrasound, and after two months saw re-formed, functional cartilage in the animals' knees.

The researchers plan to test the material in larger animal models more akin to humans soon. 

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