The University of Bradford’s School of Engineering, Design and Technology, UK and Advanced Gel Technology Ltd, a University spinoff company, are developing a cartilage-repair gel to improve the quality of life for people who are impacted by medical joint trouble such as osteoarthritis.

Unlike most other parts of the body, cartilage cannot be repaired easily, and many joint sufferers undergo major invasive surgery to replace the joint. Joint replacements last some 10 to 15 years and revising them is difficult, which means surgery is generally recommended for age groups where replacement will last a lifetime.

“The potential for improved quality of life is huge. The number of people suffering from cartilage problems is increasing every year," said Pete Twigg, PhD, the lead researcher of the Cartilage Repair Project. “Total joint replacement is very successful, but may not be appropriate for younger, more active people. They are often encouraged to put off surgery until the pain is disabling, but a conservative replacement treatment could relieve pain and restore function at a much earlier stage.”

Treating patients who need surgery with the alternative hydrogel therapy would offer a less invasive procedure, any may stave off joint replacement surgery for at least 5 years.

The researchers are looking at joints that have suffered trauma from a car accident or a sports injury, where the cartilage has been torn or has a hole in it. They would drill a bigger hole into the tear and fill it with the gel to replace the original cartilage and stop the pain caused by bones rubbing against each other.

The hydrogel treatment could eventually be performed as day surgery, where a needle could be inserted through the skin into the affected area.

The £135K project began 3 years ago, and the gel is not yet at clinical trial stage.

[Source: ScienceDaily]