Cartilage is a bone-protecting tissue that absorbs shock and allows for fluid joint mobility. Despite its poor healing potential, stem cell transplantation is a viable therapeutic technique for cartilage inflammation and injury as well as promoting cartilage regeneration. However, the fluid environment surrounding the cartilage and the rapid extraction of the transplanted stem cells from the smooth surface of the cartilage are major disadvantages of this approach, leading to less favorable treatment outcomes.
A team of researchers from Korea’s Postec, Dongguk University Medical Center and Nature Glutec has developed a therapeutic solution for damaged cartilage. It involves the use of a viscous immiscible fluid that, when combined with adhesive proteins derived from molluscs and hyaluronic acid, can help transplant stem cells into damaged tissue.
The joint team was led by Professor Hyung Joon Cha (Department of Chemical Engineering and School of Convergence Science and Technology), Ph.D. Candidate Seong-Woo Maeng, Dr. Tae Yoon Park, and Professor Kye Il Joo (currently, at Ewha Womans University), from the Department of Chemical Engineering at POSTECH, Professor Gun-Il Im and Dr. from Dongguk University Medical. of Ji-eun. Center, and Dr. Nature Glutek Co., Ltd. Seongmin Ha’s research, supported by the Korea Health Technology R&D Project through Korea Health Industry Development under the Ministry of Health and Welfare, has been published in the Journal of Chemical Engineering.
Researchers developed a novel bioadhesive material in the form of a viscous immiscible liquid phase to overcome the limitations of conventional treatment strategies. This was achieved by combining membrane-derived adhesion proteins with high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid, which exhibits opposing charges and thus facilitates electrostatic interactions between them.
By engineering a highly viscous liquid bioadhesive that does not dissolve or swell in water, the team created an adhesive that could safely encapsulate stem cells and facilitate their firm attachment to the transplant site. In a rabbit model evaluation the liquid bioadhesive was held in position while implanted into defective cartilage.
Prolonged retention of transplanted stem cells within damaged cartilage facilitated cartilage regeneration and enhanced the therapeutic effects of stem cell transplantation. An additional advantage of the adhesive liquid developed by the team includes a natural adhesive that does not require any additional physical or chemical processes.
“The therapeutic effect of stem cells can be significantly enhanced by using simple addition protein, an original biomaterial developed in Korea,” said Professor Hyung Joon Cha, who led the research. He also noted that “because the liquid bioadhesive can be prepared for injection, it has the potential to be an effective treatment for damaged cartilage when used in stem cell transplantation through an endoscope such as an arthroscope.” Materials technology for mussel adhesion proteins. Nature Gluetech Co., Ltd. has been transferred to and clinical studies of the stem cell adhesive CartiFix developed for the treatment of arthritis in this research are expected to begin soon.
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