Biodegradable Joint Implants Grow New Finger + Toe Joints

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are incredibly painful conditions that often result in the need for joint implants. This is because the arthritis destroys the cartilage that protects the ends of bones from damaging friction. Ordinarily, when the condition gets so bad that joint movement is limited and painful, permanent implants are the go-to treatment. But researchers at the Tampere University of Technology have been working on an alternative since the 90s. RegJoint, which would replace man-made permanent implants with biodegradeable ones, actually encourages the regrowth of the patient’s own fibrous tissue.

Eventually, the patient’s own tissue takes over and leaves only a new, functional “neojoint” made of his or her own biological cells. The RegJoint implant is absorbed into the body harmlessly and the repaired joint’s mobility is completely restored. The implants are currently meant only for the small joints in the fingers and toes and are now undergoing human trials. They have already been implanted in some 200 patients and recently received the go-ahead to be sold in Europe.

submit to reddit
See more in Cybernetics or under Technology. May, 2012.