About 2 million Brazilians develop osteoarthritis each year. The disease that causes severe pain in several joints in the body can now, however, have a new treatment. A new study suggests that cartilage in the nose can be used to replace damaged cartilage in the knee.
Osteoarthritis, in turn, happens when the cartilage in a joint, especially in the knee and arms, wears down. In the case of the knee, then, the patella starts rubbing directly on the tibia, without any cushioning. As you can imagine – or feel, in the case of readers affected by the disease – this type of movement is extremely painful.
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However, a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine shows that a person’s nose cartilage can be a great candidate for fighting osteoarthritis.
After testing the procedure in rats and sheep, the researchers realized that by inserting cartilage from the nasal septum (the “split” between the nostrils) into a knee damaged by the disease, the procedure could recover the lost cartilage.
For that, the authors removed a small part of the septum, enough to cultivate new cells. These cartilaginous cells were then cultured in vitro until they form thin “sheets” of cartilage cells. These leaves, therefore, were inserted into the animals’ knees, forming new layers and reducing the effects of the disease.
Applying the process for osteoarthritis in humans
After testing the procedure’s efficacy and safety in animals, the researchers moved on to the next step. With two volunteers, a 34-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman, the scientists performed the same surgical procedure, basically.
The follow-up of the two patients, who had severe osteoarthritis, showed that their quality of life significantly increased, with a reduction in pain and discomfort. Yet an examination performed on the woman’s knee showed that her cartilage almost doubled in thickness, going from 2mm to 4.9mm. This shows that the cells successfully reproduced in the new tissue.
This type of process is therefore revolutionary in relation to traditional treatment. It turns out that the best resource so far against osteoarthritis is the insertion of a prosthesis in the knee. This prosthesis, then, can be made of titanium or plastic and avoids direct friction between the bones.
However, the prosthesis causes discomfort, some loss of movement and has a useful life of around 20 years. In other words, a patient can undergo two or three surgeries of this type in a lifetime. Furthermore, there is always the risk of rejection of the prosthesis by the body.
In the case of nose cartilage, the material inserted in place of the prosthesis is the individual’s own cells. That is, the chance of rejection is almost nil. Furthermore, these cells are living tissue and, if they manage to develop in the new location, they will not need new surgeries for exchange.
Now the team has received authorization to carry out the intervention in another 15 patients with osteoarthritis. If the results are positive, the number should rise to 64 people.
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