There are several areas of research that may prove successful; stem cell injections, a Collagen Meniscal Implant (CMI), and 3-D research.
In a clinical trial of stem cell injections for meniscal tears, only 15% of participants experienced an increase in meniscal tissue at one year following treatment. This could be because without healthy cartilage to pad the bones that meet in the knee joint, the bones become battered and misshapen and a new meniscus can’t fix that damage. So, it would make sense to try stem cell medicine on people with new injuries who do not have the damage to their bones.
The Collagen Meniscal Implant, a biological completely absorbable implant made from highly purified collagen with a porous structure showed some promise. This device is attached arthroscopically to fill the void resulting for damaged or lost meniscal tissue and makes use of the body’s own ability to re-populate the structure with its own cells over time to regenerate the normal structure of the meniscus. There is data showing benefit in chronic meniscal injuries for the right patient.
In a study successfully conducted on sheep, a meniscus was regenerated with a 3-D printer, infused with human growth factors that prompt the body to regenerate the lining on its own. It begins with MRI scans of the intact meniscus in the undamaged knee. The scans are converted into a 3-D image which is used to drive a 3-D printer. A scaffold in the exact shape of the meniscus down to a resolution of 10 microns (less than the width of a human hair) is produced within 30 minutes. This research is preliminary but it demonstrates potential for meniscus regeneration.
However, the reality is at present there’s little that orthopedists can do to regenerate a torn knee meniscus. Small tears can be sewn back in place, but larger tears have to be surgically removed which helps with pain and swelling, but leaves the knee without its natural shock absorber. There are three viable options on the horizon, but they are still in the research stages and it could be years before they are offered to the general population.Back to Blog