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New study examines potential new treatment to prevent post-traumatic osteoarthritis

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A US researcher has won funding to investigate a new method of preventing post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

The treatment would strengthen damaged cartilage, preventing it from progressing to arthritis.

Diane Wagner, an associate professor of mechanical engineering with the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, hopes that the study will lead to a non-invasive treatment for people who have experienced injuries to cartilage in their joints as a result of road traffic accidents, sports injuries or other trauma.

“The basic idea is pretty simple,” Wagner said. “We want to strengthen cartilage for people who have experienced an injury and therefore are more prone to cartilage wear and likely to develop post-traumatic osteoarthritis in the future.”

The National Institutes of Health is supporting the research with a $1.3m (£988,000) grant.

Wagner will study a photo-initiated crosslinking treatment in which a combination of a chemical solution and a particular wavelength of light is used to add bonds between collagen fibres within cartilage, strengthening the tissue, the university explained.

This process is designed to target only damaged cartilage, leaving healthy cartilage untouched.

“We wouldn´t be altering other tissues or cartilage that is still healthy,” Wagner said. “We would just be trying to strengthen cartilage that has been damaged and is more susceptible to developing arthritis.”

Both the chemical solution and light can be delivered through arthroscopic surgery, which means that successful completion of this project may result in a new, noninvasive treatment for the prevention of post-traumatic osteoarthritis.