Orthopedic injuries are extremely common, especially to the knee. However, the avascular nature of the synovial areas makes it extremely difficult for injured soft tissues to regenerate. Failure to treat these injuries can lead to injury of other soft tissues, leading to cartilage degeneration and improper weight loading. These can cause a patient pain and discomfort, creating a need for tissue engineering of orthopedic tissues. Specifically, we focus on ligament, meniscus, and articular cartilage tissue engineering.
Previous work has aimed at creating a scaffold for tissue engineering of the ACL. Material sources include biological (bovine dermal collagen, Bombyx Mori silk) and synthetic (PLLA, poly DTDDD) polymers. Currently, efforts are aimed towards developing an effective radioprotection treatment of tendon allografts to combat the decrease in mechanical integrity following sterilization.
Currently, we are working on a hybrid polymer (poly DTDDD) fiber/collagen sponge scaffold for meniscus TE. Weaving fibers into the pattern to the right can provide sufficient mechanical integrity, both radially and circumferentially, whereas the collagen sponge adds biocompatibility and bioactivity. The polymer degrades over time, giving way to natural tissue, and the collagen sponge is remodeled to form a natural, functional extracellular matrix. Future studies will also experiment with PLLA polymer, as well as partial mensicus implants.
The article below further describes this meniscus research.