Tissue Engineering Approaches for the Treatment of Knee Joint Damage



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There are more than 150,000 anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions each year with the goal of recovering the balance between knee stability and mobility. As many as 25 percent of these procedures will end in joint instability that can cause further damage. The risk of developing degenerative joint disease (DJD) increases in patients with previous knee injury, resulting in a higher instance of total knee arthroplasty (TKA).

There are more than 400,000 TKA procedures each year, but the waiting lists for this surgery shows that many more patients are hoping to undergo this procedure. TKA provides improved knee function and pain relief for patients suffering from DJD. Although this procedure is considered successful, as younger patients undergo this treatment, the long-term performance must be improved. Major mechanisms of failure include component loosening from stress-shielding, poor integration of the implant with native tissue, and ion release from the implant. TiNb alloys are more biocompatible than currently used alloys, such as NiTi, and have mechanical properties closer to bone, so they would reduce the instance of stress shielding. TiNb can be made porous for better integration with the native bone and has superior corrosion resistance than NiTi.

Engineered ligaments have generally failed to achieve mechanical properties sufficiently similar to their native counterparts, but also lack the osteochondral interface critical to the transfer of load between ligament and bone. The osteochondral interface could be incorporated through a gradient of inorganic content toward the bony insertion ends of the ligament graft, as we showed that in increase of inorganic content resulted in the transdifferentiation of osteoblasts toward chondrocyte-like cells (bone to cartilage-like).

A composite scaffold composed of an electrospun mesh with either a hydrogel component or extracellular matrix (ECM) produced by the cells may be a suitable tissue engineered ligament graft. The non-linear stress-strain behavior seen in native ligament is exhibited by both of these systems, and the ECM produced by these systems is consistent with ligament tissue. The ECM-electrospun mesh composite exhibited higher elastic modulus than the fibrin-electrospun mesh composite, but required extensive pre culture while the fibrin-electrospun mesh composite could be fabricated in situ.