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Dr. Karen Hasty Article

Karen Hasty, PhD, George Thomas Wilhelm Endowed Professor

Cartilage Research Offers Hope for Halting Damage Earlier

How do you make new cartilage more like old cartilage, so the two are compatible and work together to restore function in a damaged joint?

That's one of the questions facing two scientist conducting research supported by the Campbell Foundation in the promising field of cartilage regeneration and repair.

Dr. Karen Hasty is the George Thomas Wilhelm Professor in Orthopaedics and chief research for the UT-Campbell Clinic Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr. Jinsong Huang is an instructor in the Department. The two scientists are studying ways to make the body bind to new cartilage cells generated in the laboratory, then inserted where cartilage has been damaged.

"Our research focuses on cartilage integration," Dr. Hasty said. "We want to learn how to make the cartilage tissue that we implant more like the original, and smoothly join the two together. If the two don't fit correctly, the new cartilage will loosen and deteriorate."

Repeated use or trauma to a joint can result in damage to cartilage, the slick, water-rich tissue located between bones that permits smooth movement of joints. Cartilage does not regenerate in the body. Over time, damaged cartilage is lost, causing pain, osteoarthritis, and limited function in affected joints.

Tissue engineers have become adept at growing new cartilage cells in the laboratory. Surgeons can then clear away damaged tissue and insert the new cells, Dr. Huang said. Problems can arise, however, when the newly generated cartilage that is inserted must integrate with existing cartilage in the joint.

"We are working on ways to make the two more compatible," Dr. Huang said. "For example, new cartilage is slick, so we are using enzymes to roughen the surface of old cartilage and make it more adherent. Once the cartilage is rough, we are experimenting with a "Bio-Glue" made from collagen molecules mixed with cartilage cells, which gives us a living interface between the two types of cartilage."

Dr. Fred Azar, a Campbell Clinic surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine, has performed several types of cartilage restoration procedures.

"Cartilage repair offers hope for the future, especially in dealing with osteoarthritis," Dr. Hasty said. "Osteoarthritis often means the cartilage is gone, and there's only bone on bone."

From the Campbell Foundation Momentum.


We hope to see a day when an early diagnostic test can detect damage before the patient begins to hurt. If the damage can be repaired early, patients may be able to avoid a lot of pain today as well as joint replacement tomorrow.

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