Human articular cartilage defects can be treated with nasal septum cells.
Researchers at the University and the University Hospital of Basel report that cells taken from the nasal septum are able to adapt to the environment of the knee joint and can thus repair articular cartilage defects. The nasal cartilage cells’ ability to self-renew and adapt to the joint environment is associated with the expression of so-called HOX genes. The scientific journal Science Translational Medicine has published the research results together with the report of the first treated patients.
Cartilage lesions in joints often appear in older people as a result of degenerative processes. However, they also regularly affect younger people after injuries and accidents. Such defects are difficult to repair and often require complicated surgery and long rehabilitation times. A new treatment option has now been presented by a research team lead by Prof. Ivan Martin, professor for tissue engineering, and Prof. Marcel Jakob, Head of Traumatology, from the Department of Biomedicine at the University and the University Hospital of Basel: Nasal cartilage cells can replace cartilage cells in joints.
Cartilage cells from the nasal septum (nasal chondrocytes) have a distinct capacity to generate a new cartilage tissue after their expansion in culture. In an ongoing clinical study, the researchers have so far taken small biopsies (6 millimeters in diameter) from the nasal septum from seven out of 25 patients below the age of 55 years and then isolated the cartilage cells. They cultured and multiplied the cells and then applied them to a scaffold in order to engineer a cartilage graft the size of 30 x 40 millimeters. A few weeks later they removed the damaged cartilage tissue of the patients’ knees and replaced it with the engineered and tailored tissue from the nose. In a previous clinical study conducted in cooperation with plastic surgeons and using the same method, the researchers from Basel recently already successfully reconstructed nasal wings affected by tumors.