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Stem cells used to grow hip replacement

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A “living hip replacement” could one day be used to treat arthritis of the hip without major surgery to replace the joint.


Washington University biomedical engineering PhD student Ali Ross and Farshid Guilak, PhD, a professor of orthopaedic surgery, have coaxed stem cells to grow into new cartilage on a 3D synthetic scaffold shaped like the ball of a hip joint. The stem cells are taken from fat beneath the skin.

This scaffold can be implanted onto the surface of an arthritic hip with the aim of easing arthritis pain, and delaying or even eliminating the need for joint-replacement surgery in some patients.

The scientists also used gene therapy to activate the new cartilage to release anti-inflammatory molecules to help prevent a return of arthritis.

Their findings have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers believe that the technique may one day provide an alternative to hip-replacement surgery, particularly in younger patients. Washington University noted that doctors are reluctant to perform such operations in patients under the age of 50 because prosthetic joints typically last for less than 20 years. There are risks associated with a second joint-replacement surgery to remove a worn prosthetic as this can destroy bone and put patients at risk for infection.

“We´ve developed a way to resurface an arthritic joint using a patient´s own stem cells to grow new cartilage, combined with gene therapy to release anti-inflammatory molecules to keep arthritis at bay,” Guilak said. “Our hope is to prevent, or at least delay, a standard metal and plastic prosthetic joint replacement.”