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12 BONEZONE • December 2016 S cientists have programed stem cells to grow cartilage on a 3D woven scaffold shaped like a femoral head, results that could lead to an alternative to hip replace- ment for arthritis patients. The technique, which was described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, takes mesenchymal stem cells from fat and seeds them on a biomaterial scaffold that can then be implanted onto the sur- face of a hip. Further, the scientists added gene therapy to cells to release anti-inflammatory molecules that not only resolved damaged car- tilage, but staved off arthritis. "This is the first time we've seen anything where we've been able to make functional car- tilage with the properties of cartilage that's vir- tually unlimited in size," says Farshid Guilak, Ph.D., a professor of orthopaedic surgery at Washington University. "You can make it the size and shape of an entire joint." The research is being conducted between Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Cytex Theraupeutics in Durham, North Carolina. Guilak also serves as President of Cytex and formed the company with col- leagues before he moved from Duke University to Washington University. "Nearly all of the approaches that are being used now for cartilage repair focus on studying what we would call a focal defect," Guilak says. "It's like if you had a pothole in the road, if you have a chunk of cartilage miss- ing; virtually every approach is designed now chemically to fill that pothole. As our lab worked on osteoarthritis, what we saw was there is really no treatment for whole joint degeneration in this manner. The only thing you can do is diet and exercise, take Motrin and then have a joint replacement. There are no treatments that affect the course of the disease. So we started to work on this concept of, can we regenerate cartilage, not just to fill a little whole, but to repave the entire road? To do that, you need a lot of cells and you need a biomaterial scaffold that can form in the shape of a hip or a joint and can withstand loading that can be several times your body weight through your joints." The group's research is focused on the hip, specifically arthritic hips in patients 40 to 60 years of age. By regrowing and replacing the cartilage, they believe they can provide a RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT Scientists Engineer Stem Cells to Regrow Cartilage The technology's first focus is hip arthritis. INDUSTRY UPDATE Images courtesy of Cytex Therapeutics