Indiana University orthopaedic surgeon to share cartilage growth research results

May 20, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS - Degenerative joint disease is on the rise as the population ages costing untold dollars in lost productivity and medical expenses. Few remedies exist, other than joint replacement surgery, but a growing field of tissue engineering research is seeking less invasive and less painful ways to address the problem.

One of those researchers is Stephen B. Trippel, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Dr. Trippel will join other researchers from across the country May 20-22 in Boston to discuss the latest, most promising research techniques for restoring tissue during the Sixth Annual Orthopaedic Tissue Engineering Conference.

The research scientists will share information on new approaches to enhance the repair and regeneration of musculo-skeletal tissue through advances in gene therapy, stem cells, growth factor delivery, scaffolding techniques and synthetics.

Dr. Trippel's research involves articular cartilage repair through the use of a naturally occurring growth factor. Articular cartilage is the thin layer of cartilage on the surface of a joint that allows unhindered and painless movement. Aging, age-related diseases and trauma can result in permanent damage to articular cartilage.

Although his research is not yet ready for human clinical trials, Dr. Trippel says that laboratory results are encouraging. For example, Henning Madry, M.D., a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Trippel's laboratory, has succeeded in transferring the gene for insulin-like growth factor, or IGF-1, into cartilage cells. This growth factor is a naturally occurring substance which has been found in the laboratory and in clinical studies to stimulate cartilage-cell growth. When the IGF-1 gene was integrated into the cells, the cells were able to make better cartilage than cells without the gene.

Additional data suggest that the ability of these cells to manufacture new cartilage also is improved when the cells are grown in a pre-constructed, biocompatible scaffold, a technique used in tissue engineering.

"We believe that combining gene therapy techniques with tissue engineering techniques may achieve better results than with either technology alone," says Dr. Trippel.

The next step will be to find the combination of conditions that generates the best new cartilage and to ensure that the techniques are safe. These are necessary early steps in the long path of a new potential therapy before it is used in human clinical trials.
Dr. Trippel's research was funded by a National Institutes of Health grant.

Indiana University

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