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Now, regenerative therapy for knee meniscus repair

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati and the University of Animal and Fishery Sciences, Kolkata, have collaborated to formulate solutions to treat knee meniscus tear through regenerative therapy. Rina Mukherji reports

Knee meniscus tear is a common form of injury brought about through daily activity, age, or sudden accidents. However, the condition is difficult to treat and can make it tough for the injured individual to walk, run or even undertake daily activity. A meniscus tear can also result in complications later on, such as osteoarthritis.

A team of scientists headed by Prof Biman B. Mandal, Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Guwahati, along with his research scholars Ashutosh Bandyopadhyay, Baishali Ghibhela and Sayanti Shome, all from IIT Guwahati, and collaborators Dr Debajyoti Pal, Dr Samsamul Hoque and Prof Samit K. Nandi from the University of Animal and Fishery Sciences, Kolkata, have created three hydrogel formulations that are blends of silk fibroin and other polymers to treat meniscus injuries.

Out of the three, one is an injectable hydrogel, which can be injected in a minimally invasive manner directly into the meniscus site to expedite the healing of smaller injuries. In the two bio-ink formulations, one carries a commercially available growth factor – loaded microspheres, while the second bio-ink formulation carries patient-derived factors which are released in a sustained manner to help in faster meniscus healing. Both formulations can be 3D-printed into a partial or full-sized meniscus and used for healing large portions of the meniscus.

Although tear, injury and degeneration of the knee meniscus (a thin layer of cartilage between the surfaces of some joints, for example the knee), which is a soft tissue that protects us from injury and shock, is common, healing is a slow process because of restricted blood supply. The scientists have, however, developed an approach wherein treatment can be administered, keeping in view the age group and also the patient.

Pointing to the advantages of the techniques developed, team leader Prof Biman Mondol says, “There is an urgent need for personalised, affordable 3D meniscal implants in the clinical scenario as artificial implants fail to conform to patients alike. There are also significant infection risks from allografts, inconsistent mechanical compliance of the graft being either too brittle or too stiff, as well as the poor biological integration of synthetic implants.”

A 3-D printed knee meniscus view.

The technique of 3D (3-dimensional) printing, or bioprinting, has recently emerged as a popular futuristic method for tissue engineering, wherein an implant is customised according to the patient’s requirement. Typically, the injured knee of the patient is scanned by the doctor and the specifications fed to the 3D printer, to create a perfect fit implant using the bio-ink for the patient to promote rapid recovery. The techniques developed have overcome the disadvantages posed by existing healing methods, besides being affordable.


(The writer is a senior journalist who lives in Pune.)