FRIDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- In a decade or so, people now clamoring for metal and ceramic replacement joints may instead be able to have a fully functional biological replacement -- a joint grown within their own bodies to their specific physiology.
To date, researchers have successfully grown replacement shoulder joints in rabbits, using an implanted biological "scaffold" upon which new cartilage developed, according to a study reported in The Lancet.
"It's definitely a major step forward," said Dr. Thomas A. Einhorn, chairman of orthopaedic surgery and a professor of orthopaedics, biochemistry and biomedical engineering at Boston University and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "It's excellent work."
However, people with arthritis or degenerative joint conditions should not expect to take advantage of this medical advance any time in the immediate future. Clinical use of the new technology is still a decade or more away, said Einhorn and Dr. James L. Cook, a veterinarian and director of the Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory at the University of Missouri, and a member of the research team.
"You're probably looking at the eight- to 10-year mark before it becomes widely available," Cook said. "I tell everyone we're working as hard as we can. I get a ton of calls from patients who say, 'I'll fly wherever I can, I'll pay whatever I have to, I'll sign whatever you want me to. I don't want metal or plastic. I don't want an artificial joint.'"
The new process works by implanting in the damaged joint what's called a bioscaffold, which has been infused with a medication known as transforming growth factor beta-3. The drug encourages the body's own cells -- stem cells included -- to become cartilage and bone cells.
The scaffold is made from polycaprolactone, a biodegradable plastic, and hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurrin
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