As we age, tissue degenerates, which can lead to chronic injuries in joints or even having to undergo a hip or knee replacement. Understanding how and why this happens, could lead to improvement of preventative treatment and care.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and the University of Delaware have recently found that the fibrocartilage tissue in the knee is far more complicated than previously thought.
It is hoped their findings will help improve treatment of injuries where the tissue tears, which can lead to long-term problems and even having to have a knee replacement.
Their study, published in the journal Nature Materials, could lead to the development of better strategies for treating load-bearing tissues, where a lack of understanding about how they respond to movement has been a chronic problem for innovation.
Although teams have managed to create tissue-engineered models to mimic some of the characteristics of healthy natural tissue structure and function, they cannot replicate early tissue degeneration and its effects.
In their study, researchers developed micro-engineered models to help further understanding of how tissue develops, degenerates and regenerates.
Co-senior author Dr Robert L. Mauck, an associate professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, said the newly-developed tissue is able to match the key properties of natural tissue as it forms and degenerates.
He said: "Essentially, we are working to engineer tissues not just to provide healthy replacements, but also to better understand what is happening to cause degeneration in the first place."
The researchers' work found that tissue fibres are a lot more intricate than previously thought, and this further knowledge could develop new strategies for how to prevent degeneration in knee tissue.
It will also help to investigate the impact of degenerative diseases in a number of different types of connective tissues.
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