Articulate cartilage has little to no capacity to undergo spontaneous repair because it has no blood supply nor is it able to regenerate across a physical gap. In order to restore cartilage in a skeletally mature patient, there is a need for outside help. In some settings, osteochondral transfer (bone with cartilage) may be harvested from elsewhere in a damaged joint and repositioned or relocated in that joint. In other settings, fresh cadaveric tissue (allograft) may be used. More recently, attempts have been directed at “engineering” cartilage. For engineering to take place, there are three requirements. First must come a matrix scaffold necessary to support tissue formation. Second are cells such as mesenchymal stem cells either from bone marrow or synovial membrane lining the joint. Third comes signaling molecules (cytokines) and growth factors. Platelet Rich Plasma is a source of signaling molecules. While Bone Marrow Concentrate doesn’t meet every need for tissue engineering, to the best of my knowledge at this time, there is nothing superior for a long term successful outcome either as an adjunct to a surgical procedure for a small defect or as a primary intervention for an arthritic joint.
There are several ways to measure success after an attempt at cartilage repair. For a contained or global defect, MRI is the primary outcome measure; whereas for osteoarthritis, the Outcome objective metrics I use have proven statistically significant and reproducible. I write this Blog in between presentations by the faculty at American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery Program: Articular Cartilage Restoration-The Modern Frontier. I came here to learn and learn I did about surgical procedures for contained injury. When it comes to osteoarthritis, I learned little but contributed much. No, I am not being egotistical, I am reporting what transpired at the meeting and what is transpiring in my practice. Of interest is the universal agreement by those treating the global defect with surgery and those of us who treat osteoarthritis with stem cells; including the supporting bone ( bone marrow edema)in the therapeutic algorithm via subchodndroplasty is paramount.
“He, who has data, need not shout”

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