Research on Cartilage Defects

Cartilage defects acquired through the wear and tear of everyday life ultimately contribute to osteoarthritis (OA)—the most common form of arthritis and a significant source of disability and impaired quality of life. With recent generations of active and athletic individuals, the number of people with OA is substantial, and often affects younger adults for whom joint replacement is not a desirable treatment option.

photoRush University Medical Center’s bone and joint program has a distinguished history of “bench-to-bedside” or translational research, wherein laboratory discoveries are brought directly to our patients, while clinical findings contribute to further research innovations. A strong collaboration between sports medicine physicians in our department of orthopedic surgery and basic scientists has facilitated major innovations in treating patients with cartilage defects thus far.

The Rush team’s focus is now on developing ways of preventing further degradation and delaying the need for surgical intervention in patients with cartilage defects. Investing in the laboratory and clinic will help expand the current array of minimally invasive repair options.

The Importance of Additional Funding

Currently, in Rush’s Cartilage Restoration Center, a common procedure is for physicians to surgically insert a plug of cadaver cartilage and bone into the joint of a patient with damaged cartilage with the hope that it heals to the surrounding bones. The fact that the procedure is somewhat invasive and the implant is clinically effective in only 75 to 85 percent of the patients has prompted the need to develop better ways to treat such injuries.

Dr. Brian Cole is also at the forefront of autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), a procedure where cartilage is taken from a non-load-bearing part of the patient’s own body and is stimulated to grow new cartilage cells in a laboratory. In a second surgery, the patient’s own cartilage is inserted into the injured area. This procedure is not always successful either, and can only be used in patients whose cartilage damage is minimal. The most common complication is the failure of implanted cells to integrate and possibly, the need for additional surgery to remove scar tissue in the joint.

Your donations to the LiveActive Fund will help generate the much needed funding to advance orthopedic research, education and create awareness for alternative treatments, therapies and training to allow people to resume an active lifestyle. To date, fundraising has largely been used to investigate improvements and alternatives to existing technologies. Several projects are slated that are in dire need of additional funding to facilitate their completion.

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