Treating joint damage in young people
A new treatment is being developed
- By: Sridhar Vijayan, George Bentley
An osteochondral defect is the breakdown of cartilage and adjoining subchondral bone by traumatic injury or disease. In young patients this can cause severe pain, swelling, and joint instability. The seriousness of the defect is often not understood until a later stage, when many of these patients develop secondary, early onset osteoarthritis.
Joint endings are lined with a smooth cartilage known as hyaline articular cartilage, which is essential for movement with low friction and shock absorption. This cartilage is resilient, primarily composed of a meshwork of type II collagen and proteoglycans, which are produced by chondrocytes. Seventy per cent is water held in an extracellular matrix by the negative charge on the proteoglycans.1 Damage to articular cartilage ultimately leads to exposure of the underlying bone, causing pain, disability, and eventually osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, articular cartilage has poor regenerative properties, and treatments are based on trying to recreate and replace the lost