In Brief
Scientists have developed a 'living hip' that can help relieve pain for arthritis patients, and it can release anti-inflammatory molecules to prevent pain from ever coming back.

No Rejection

Scientists at the University of Washington are developing a “living hip,” that can alleviate pain for arthritis sufferers.

Stem cells were used to grow cartilage in the exact shape of a hip joint, while a tissue was also genetically engineered to release anti-inflammatory molecules so the pain of arthritis will no longer come back.

The perfectly shaped cartilage will be implanted around the joint to extend its life before arthritis has caused too much damage to the bone. Severe loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position.

Researchers used a 3D, biodegradable synthetic scaffold, which is molded into the precise shape of a patient’s joint based on scans, and then covered it with stem cells taken from fat beneath the skin. The scaffold is built using a weaving pattern that allows the stem cells to transform into the structure and shape of normal cartilage.

Because the implant is made from a patient’s own stem cells, there is no risk of rejection. 

Image source: University of Washington
Image source: University of Washington

Alternative To Prostethics

Researchers say the living hip could work for all joints, and could offer an alternative treatment for patients who need hip or knee replacements.

It could also help younger patients, who are often told to wait until they are older for surgery, even when in significant pain.

Currently, prosthetic treatments only last for a maximum of 20 years, and surgery to replace them risks damaging the bone further, and can lead to infections. Scientist say the living hip could prevent, or at least delay, a standard metal and plastic prosthetic joint replacement.