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Mizzou Scientists Experiment With Homegrown Replacement Joints

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The nice scientists at Mizzou helped Bunny grow a new shoulder!
It would be convenient if human bodies were like starfish, able to regenerate missing limbs or anything else they need. We can't yet, but a team of researchers at the University of Missouri and Columbia University may be close to re-growing joints, which could be longer-lasting and better-performing than artificial joints made from metal and plastic.

"Our goal at Mizzou's Comparitive Orthopaedic Laboratory is to do away with metal and plastic joints, and instead, regenerate a fully functional biologic joint for everyone who needs one," James Cook, a researcher in Mizzou's departments of veterinary medicine and orthopaedic surgery who contributed to the study, said in a press release.

The research team recently grew new shoulder joints in rabbits using a "bioscaffold" that replaced the ball part of the ball-and-socket joint. The bioscaffolds were infused with a transforming growth factor compound that made the rabbits' existing cells grow into cartilage and bone.

Within three to four weeks, the scientists reported in the medical journal The Lancet, the rabbits were up and hopping around and putting weight on the regrown joints, and within four months, the cartilage in the joints was fully-grown, and all the tissue was healthy.

"The device was designed with both biological and mechanical factors in mind," Cook said. "It is unique in design and composition and in how it stimulates the body's own cells.  This is the first time we have seen cartilage regeneration using this type of scaffold."

The next step, Cook said, is to implant the bioscaffolds in larger animals, and then, eventually, work up to humans.

"If we continue to prove the safety and efficacy of this biologic joint replacement strategy, then we can get FDA approval for use of this technology for joint replacements in people," Cook said. "We are stil in the early phases of this process, but this study gives a big boost to its feasibility."

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