Degenerative joint disease can wreak havoc on the bones of an aging body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 million Americans were diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that can cause joints and cartilage to deteriorate.
Most cases of osteoarthritis affect weight-bearing joints like knees and hips, or extremities like feet and hands, but osteoarthritis can also attack the area where the jaw joins the rest of the skull, called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
Most treatments for osteoarthritis involve pain management and reduction, but a new advancement in bone grafting technique offers new hope for people suffering from the disorder.
A team of scientists at Columbia University, led by Dr. Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, recently published their findings of an extensive study to revolutionize existing bone-grafting procedures for the TMJ. The report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, outlined new procedures for using stem cells to manufacture human bone condyles (ball-and-socket joints) for the TMJ.
The stem cells used in the production of healthy bone are able to reproduce healthy bone structures in the graft. The scientists also created a type of bioreactor that kept a steady supply of nutrients flowing through the growing bones at all times. The new technology allows scientists to create more accurate ball-and-socket joints, which are notoriously difficult to size and fit correctly because of their unique shape.
The grafts could be used for multiple purposes. Bone grafts and transplants are not common procedures in osteoarthritis or TMJ related arthritis, but if technology continues to improve and remains accessible, they may be included in normal courses of treatment in the future. The grafts can also be used in treatment of facial wounds or injuries like those suffered in accidents or other diseases. The new grafting technique is expected to be expanded to other types of bones and grafting as well, opening the door for different tissue types to be developed.?