One in five American adults has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a painful condition caused by wear and tear in the joints. For decades, doctors have been treating osteoarthritis by replacing the afflicted joint with metal and plastic, but those artificial joints tend to wear out after about 20 years.
Doctors at the Scripps Clinic Shiley Center for Orthopedic Research and Education (SCORE), using an innovative electronic knee that transmits data to a computer, found that a replacement will last longer if that person reduces the amount of high-impact activities. Scripps researchers are now working to find out if stem cells and 3-D printed tissue could prove to be other safe and effective solutions.
In this episode of San Diego Health, host Susan Taylor and SCORE medical director Darryl D’Lima, MD, discuss advances in orthopedic research, and how stem cells derived from a patient’s bone marrow are already being used to regenerate tissue lost to osteoarthritis, although for reasons under investigation, some respond to it better than others.
Dr. D’Lima also outlines his predictions for the future of orthopedic research, which could include the 3-D printing of living tissue inside a patient’s body.
The Scripps Clinic Shiley Center for Orthopaedic Research and Education (SCORE) was established in 1983 by Clifford Colwell, MD, and funded by a donation from local philanthropist Darlene Shiley.
Physicians and scientists at SCORE are working toward toward finding safe and effective solutions to solve orthopedic problems, including using 3-D devices to print out living cartilage cells that can be injected into arthritic knees to regrow healthy cartilage tissue.
In 2004 Dr. Colwell implanted the world’s first electronic knee, or “e-knee,” into a patient at Scripps Green Hospital. The electronic knee functions like a regular knee joint replacement but contains a computer chip that measures forces inside the knee while the patient participates in various activities.
Darryl D’Lima, MD, medical director at SCORE, has conducted extensive orthopedic research using the e-knee, which has led to the development of better knee implants and improved rehabilitation protocols following knee replacement surgery.
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder. It is due to aging and wear and tear on a joint.
Cartilage is the firm, rubbery tissue that cushions your bones at the joints. It allows bones to glide over one another. When the cartilage breaks down and wears away, the bones rub together. This often causes the pain, swelling, and stiffness of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis cannot be cured. It will most likely get worse over time. However, the symptoms can be controlled.
Surgery is an option in addition to other treatments that can reduce pain and improve quality of life.
SCORE is studying the potential benefits of using stem cells for cartilage growth, including for possible treatment of osteoarthritis.
Cartilage-tissue engineering includes those performed with 3-D printers and may provide an alternative joint replacement that offers patients an improved quality of life through increase mobility and decreased pain from joint conditions.
SCORE is working on developing a 3-D bioprinter with a robotic arm that is capable of printing inside a joint. The project is five to 10 years from being tested on patients.
Dr. D'Lima of SCORE said stem cell research is promising because of the cells potential to produce proteins and compounds that can heal diseases and slow down the aging process.