Articular Cartilage Regeneration: An Update of Possible Treatment Approaches

Ray Marks


BACKGROUND: Osteoarthritis, a widespread chronically disabling disorder primarily affecting articular cartilage is said to be irreversible. Researchers have however, been examining processes and methods of promoting articular cartilage repair for some time.

QUESTIONS: Can a case be made for the possibility of restoring osteoarthritic cartilage? How advanced is this undertaking? What barriers exist in translating basic studies in the clinical realm? What physical modalities are deemed efficacious in promoting cartilage structure?

METHODS: All relevant publications detailing articular cartilage repair themes in the leading databases were examined. Specific emphasis was placed on a broad array of efforts and observations concerning articular cartilage and its repair. Articles of historic significance and more current strategies designed to foster cartilage repair were focused on, and reported in narrative form. Ideas extracted from the voluminous literature were those that answered one or more of the key questions driving this research.

RESULTS: Numerous attempts have been made over time to foster cartilage repair, using a variety of approaches such as creating artificial cartilage, and transplanting stem cells into damaged cartilage to promote repair. Most current strategies are forged in laboratories and do not always account for the complex disease process, and the importance mechanical and inflammatory determinants play in the disease. However, manipulating biophysical, and biomechanical stimuli favorably is likely to hold promise for attenuating destruction of/or for fostering cartilage viability and repair, even in the presence of adverse osteoarthritic cartilage tissue changes. 

CONCLUSION: More work is needed to examine the key upstream determinants leading to articular cartilage destruction, and to enhancing the viability of the tissue. Employing carefully construed therapeutic strategies known to impact articular cartilage homeostasis safely and  effectively can potentially preserve chondrocyte homeostasis, either alone or in conjunction with new technologies.


Articular cartilage, chondrocyte, osteoarthritis, regeneration, repair, stem cells

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