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Archive for November 10th, 2012

Artificial cartilage is often grown on lattices that weave collagen into a supportive tissue.

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to researchers who developed induced pluripotent stem-cells (IPS-cells).  IPS-cells do not carry the ethical stigma of embryonic stem cells, since they can be created by coaxing mature skin cells (from consenting adults) into their developmentally flexible states.  Most importantly, they offer the opportunity to externally grow healthy living tissue as needed.  So far, IPS-cells can be grown into relatively simplistic cells (like cartilage and bone), and not into more complex tissues like livers or kidneys.

Researchers at Duke University have recently developed a new technique to grow IPS-cells into cartilage.  This technique could permit a limitless production of cartilage for researching drug treatment.  Short term (within the next 3-5 years), cartilage from IPS-cells might be sophisticated enough for implantation.  This could delay a knee replacement by several years, and dramatically improve quality of life.

Understanding the relevance of things like IPS-cells matters because it reminds us of the importance of scientific development.  One of the recipients of this Nobel Prize earned it by turning a frog back into a tadpole.  While this may seem far from the daily knee pain felt by those suffering from knee osteoarthritis, it is his research that will lead us to the artificial cartilage that may cure them.