Human Cartilage Created From Stem Cells

For the first time, scientists have grown fully functional human cartilage from human stem cells.

The experts, from Columbia University, said that the process could help repair cartilage defects in humans. It could also make a composite graft with bone.

The discovery was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

“We’ve been able—for the first time—to generate fully functional human cartilage,” says Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, who led the study and is the Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia Engineering and professor of medical sciences.

For more than 20 years, researchers have unofficially called cartilage the “official tissue of tissue engineering,” Vunjak-Novakovic said.

But the human link has eluded them. While scientists have been able to engineer pieces of cartilage using the cells of young animals, this most recent study has been done with adult human stem cells. The cells used in this new study have been derived from bone marrow or fat.

The team plans next to test whether the engineered cartilage tissue maintains its structure and long-term function when implanted into a defect.

“This is a very exciting time for tissue engineers,” says Vunjak-Novakovic. “Stem cells are transforming the future of medicine, offering ways to overcome some of the human body’s fundamental limitations.” 

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