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Biological Device Could Repair Knee Damage Better than Before

August 18, 2006

MU Researcher Collaborating with Company to Develop Innovative Knee Repair Device

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The meniscus is described as the shock absorber of the knee. Without the meniscus, cartilage wears out quickly, bone rubs on bone and arthritis is almost guaranteed to develop. Unfortunately, when certain parts of this shock absorber are damaged, they don't regenerate, or even heal, and doctors are forced to remove the damaged portion. In the near future, this may not happen thanks to a collaboration between a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher and a company called BioDuct, LLC, a subsidiary of the tissue engineering company, Schwartz Biomedical.

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Most of the meniscus is avascular, meaning that it doesn't have a good blood supply and therefore doesn't heal well. Doctors call this portion of the meniscus the "white zone." The "red zone" of the meniscus is well vascularized tissue and can be repaired in certain situations. The new device, called BioDuct¿ Meniscal Repair Device, transports blood from the red zone to the white zone, giving that portion of the meniscus a chance to heal when it has been damaged. The use of BioDuct is close to FDA approval for widespread use.

"This is a landscape changer for the sports medicine industry and will have a large effect on how surgeons approach meniscal tears in the future," said Herb Schwartz, president and CEO of Schwartz Biomedical, LLC. "If someone has a chronic tear and the tissue is still viable, this device will provide access to blood and cells as the body tries to repair it."

Schwartz collaborated with James Cook, an MU professor of veterinary medicine and surgery, to develop BioDuct and the surgical procedure to implant it. Once BioDuct is implanted into the knee, it provides blood to the affected region of the meniscus. BioDuct is a bioabsorbable material, so after a period of time when the healing process is complete, the body breaks down the device and gets rid of it naturally.

"This device will not only help humans with these tears, but could help many animals as well," Cook said. "In the past, when someone had a tear, it was only a matter of time before palliative pain management was the only treatment option. Now, we have new ways of repairing the tissues in the joint and keeping it healthy for many years."

Schwartz said that while the device can be fitted in anyone who has a meniscal tear, certain health factors, such as being grossly overweight and smoking, could affect how well the tissue heals.

Cook has reported his findings on BioDuct at the Orthopaedic Research Society, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, International Cartilage Repair Society and Veterinary Orthopaedic Society meetings.

Source / credit: University of Missouri, Columbia

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