Posts Tagged “replace human cartilage”

This Tough Gel Could Replace Human Cartilage (and It’s Self-Healing)

5 | By Michael A. Robinson

A team of researchers at Harvard University just reported a fantastic new medical breakthrough – in the form of a hydrogel.

The compound is made mostly of water, but it’s almost unbelievably tough, strong, and resilient. It can stretch to more than 20 times its original length. Not only that, but it can actually heal itself, too. Given time to relax between stretches, the bonds in the compound are able to “re-zip,” self-repairing any cuts or breaks.

Think about the major impact this could have on medicine.

As some experts quickly pointed out, the new gel could be used to engineer human tissue. No doubt, that would be huge. We could someday use a version for skin grafts for burn victims, or to grow tissue for other needs, like organ transplants.

But I’m more excited about a much more immediate use for the hydrogel – one that could benefit the nearly 30 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis.

This is a painful condition in which cartilage wears out around the joints such as the knees and elbows. The risk of osteoarthritis onset grows with age, particularly for people over the age of 45.

That’s why so many seniors have bad knees, elbows, or shoulders that are stiff and seem to hurt all time. Many take pain relievers every day, but even the strongest over-the-counter drugs can’t get rid of all the pain all the time. And it’s not just seniors who hurt – torn cartilage is a leading form of sports injury across all age groups.

Right now there is no cure. Finding one could save the country a small fortune. Experts estimate that osteoarthritis costs us more than $186 billion a year in medical care, drugs, and lost wages. We’re talking about nearly $2 trillion a decade – and that’s just here in the U.S.

Not only that, but this is clearly a growth market. The “graying of America” promises to greatly increase the number of these arthritis cases.

As I see it, in the very near future, doctors will be able to go in and actually remove the bad or torn cartilage that’s causing you pain. They’ll replace it with a hydrogel that is much stronger and more resilient than the original organic substance with which you were born.

In the Era of Radical Change, we will continue to see a steady stream of advances like this – breakthroughs that will help us live longer and healthier lives.

Hey, longevity is good. But quality of life is vital. What’s the point of living to 100 if your knees hurt so bad you can barely walk? Or your shoulder floods with you so much pain you can’t pick up your grandkids? But this new compound promises to change all that. It could even help a century-old man take up long-distance running again…

No doubt there will be plenty of opportunity for smart companies and their investors to become filthy rich in the process.

But just getting rid of a painful condition that afflicts hundreds of millions of people around the world ranks as a major “win” in my book.

Let’s take a look at how the team at Harvard did it…