Science | July 11, 2020 2:58 pm

Research Scientists Develop Groundbreaking Artificial Cartilage

The new material is strong enough to work in knees

Knee bones
Need some cartilage? There's a technology for that.
MAKY.OREL/Creative Commons

Knee surgery is a frequently-performed procedure across the country. Why? Well, the knees are at work for most of your waking hours, and the same activity that keeps you physically fit can also lead to wear and tear on them. If you’ve ever needed to have work done on the joint itself, you may be aware of the difficulties of coming up with a lasting replacement: until recently, there wasn’t a replacement durable enough for the cartilage in a human knee.

That might no longer be the case, however. At Science Alert, David Nield has the news that a group of researchers, some affiliated with Duke University, have made a breakthrough in replacing cartilage. They’ve come up with a hydrogel that compares favorably to the material currently used for knee replacement surgery:

The hydrogel passed with top marks in both these crucial categories – stretching and squishing – and showed better performance than other existing hydrogels. In one test of 100,000 repeated pulls, the artificial cartilage held up as well as the porous titanium material used in bone implants.

This is still a few years from being widely available, however. A few years of testing will be required to make sure that the new hydrogel is safe for patients. Early tests will focus on its potential toxicity within the human body.

If the tests are successful, it could mean a less invasive surgical procedure and a shorter recovery time. All told, that’s a win for both patients and for the technology behind the process.

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