Researchers Develop Damaged Cartilage Replacement Called Kevlartilage
Orange County, CA - November 20th 2017 - Cartilage withstands some of the toughest hits a body can take. Composed of 80 percent water, it is found on the articulating surfaces of joints, among other delicate places in the body. Researchers from the University of Michigan and the Jiangnan University in China have developed an artificial cartilage using the synthetic fiber Kevlar and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a Material used in hydrogel cartilage replacements. The hybrid material combines the strength and water composition of natural cartilage and might be useful as a replacement for cartilage or other soft tissues in the body.
Artificial cartilage implants are on the rise, especially in patients aged 75 years or older. In 2006, approximately 542,000 total knee replacement surgeries were performed in the United States. Cartilage strength is of the utmost importance when ensuring the capability to withstand abrasion and deformation it is subject to in a moving joint. Additionally, the tissue needs to hold enough fluid to allow chondrocytes, the cells responsible for building cartilage, to grow. Cartilage draws its strength and flexibility from the release of water and its reabsorption. While other variations have been designed, these materials fall into two categories- strength or water- and have been unsuccessful in attaining both characteristics.
"We know that we consist mostly of water- all life does- and yet our bodies have a lot of structural stability," said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan, who led the study. "Understanding cartilage is understanding how life forms can combine properties that are sometimes unthinkable together."
Unable to fulfill the natural properties of cartilage, the team turned to a mixture of Kevlar and PVA. This combination, called “Kevlartilage,” allowed for the release of water under stress and the sponge-like reabsorption the team had sought.
In clinical trials, Kevlartilage maintained its cartilage like strength even when containing to 92 percent water. The Kevlar fibers form a mesh within the material, and the PVA hydrogel component traps water molecules inside. Further testing is needed, but the research team has already found that the Kevlartilage does not harm adjacent cells, a necessity in the consideration of cartilage replacement for implants. They hope the material may also be useful to replace other soft tissues as well.
“We have a lot of membranes in the body that require the same properties. I would like to evaluate the space,” says Nicholas Kotov, a researcher involved in the study. “I will talk to doctors about where the acute need is and where this intersection of the properties will allow us to make best headway and biggest impact.” The teams study was published in the online journal Advanced Materials earlier this month. It was supported by the National Science Foundation, with additional funding from the Department of Defense. The university is seeking patent protection to bring the technology to market.
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