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What Is Knee Cartilage Regeneration?

A diagram of the knee, including ligaments and cartilage.
Once knee cartilage is gone, it results in pain when walking and performing other everyday tasks.
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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2014
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Knee cartilage regeneration is a process that was developed to rebuild supportive tissues inside an individual's knee without the need for knee replacement or other major surgery. In many cases, it is done by using healthy cartilage from other parts of the knee to encourage the growth of new cells in damaged areas. This new cartilage can be grown in a laboratory setting or, in some cases, inside the patient's knee.

Cartilage disappears and is worn away over time and with age. Once the cartilage is gone, this can result in pain when walking and performing other everyday tasks. Knee replacement surgery can be a long and painful process, and knee cartilage regeneration may prolong this invasive surgery or prevent it from being needed. Much less invasive, the prep work and the surgery itself is often done with arthroscopy, a procedure that requires only a small incision.

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One process of knee cartilage regeneration involves a surgical procedure to first extract healthy cartilage tissue from a portion of the patient's knee that is not damaged. Medical professionals then go into the damaged part of the knee and scrape part of the tissues, making the cells in the knee realize they are damaged. Samples of healthy cell tissues are then inserted into the knee, and the body's natural repair processes bond old tissue to the fresh cells. This creates cartilage that is not necessarily the exact same material as the original, but is strong enough to relieve pain and keep the patient from needing a full knee replacement.

There is also another option for knee cartilage regeneration. In this method, healthy cartilage cells are extracted from the patient's knee, similar to the other procedure. These cells are then grown in a laboratory setting, where they are allowed to regenerate outside the human body. This new and healthy tissue is then reinserted back into the knee, where it then bonds to the existing cartilage. As this tissue comes from the patient's own cells, there is no worry of rejection, improper bonding, or infection.

The advantages of knee cartilage regeneration make it an important treatment option for many individuals. Recovery time is usually much shorter, and the surgery much less invasive. Many who have undergone the procedure have postponed other knee surgeries by up to a decade, and have been able to return to all normal activities within a year after the procedure. Pain reduction has been shown to be significant, and many individuals can continue to strengthen the knee with exercise.

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