Ortho Research Team Develops Better Recipe for Synthetic Replacement Cartilage in Joints


Figure caption: Tiny interwoven fibers make up the three-dimensional fabric “scaffold” into which a strong, pliable hydrogel is integrated and injected with stem cells, forming a framework for growing cartilage. This image appears on the cover of the Advanced Functional Materials Dec. 17, 2013. Credit: courtesy of Frank Moutos and Farshid Guilak.

Published in the journal of Advanced Functional Materials Volume 23, Issue 47, page 5825, December 17, 2013

A Duke research team has developed a better recipe for synthetic replacement cartilage in joints.

Tiny interwoven fibers make up the three-dimensional fabric “scaffold” into which a strong, pliable hydrogel is integrated and injected with stem cells, forming a framework for growing cartilage. This image appears on the cover of the Advanced Functional Materials Dec. 17, 2013. Credit: courtesy of Frank Moutos and Farshid Guilak


Combining two innovative technologies they each helped develop, Farshid Guilak, a professor of orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering, found a way to create artificial replacement tissue that mimics both the strength and suppleness of native cartilage. The results of this work appear Dec. 17 in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Articular cartilage is the tissue on the ends of bones where they meet at joints in the body – including in the knees, shoulders and hips. It can erode over time or be damaged by injury or overuse, causing pain and lack of mobility. While replacing the tissue could bring relief to millions, replicating the properties of native cartilage — which is strong and load-bearing, yet smooth and cushiony — has proven a challenge.

In 2007 Guilak and his team developed a three-dimensional fabric “scaffold” into which stem cells could be injected and successfully “grown” into articular cartilage tissue. Constructed of minuscule woven fibers. The finished product is about 1 millimeter thick.

Since then, the challenge has been to develop the right medium to fill the empty spaces of the scaffold — one that can sustain compressive loads, provide a lubricating surface and potentially support the growth of stem cells on the scaffold. Materials supple enough to simulate native cartilage have been too squishy and fragile to grow in a joint and withstand loading. “Think Jell-O,” says Guilak. Stronger substances, on the other hand, haven’t been smooth and flexible enough.

To address this issue, Guilak started working with Xuanhe Zhao, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. Zhao proposed a theory for the design of durable hydrogels (water-based polymer gels) and in 2012 collaborated with a team from Harvard University to develop an exceptionally strong yet pliable interpenetrating-network hydrogel.

“It’s extremely tough, flexible and formable, yet highly lubricating,” Zhao says.

He and Guilak began working together to integrate the hydrogel into the fabric of the 3-D woven scaffolds in a process Zhao compares to pouring concrete over a steel framework.

In their experiments, the researchers compared the resulting composite material to other combinations of Guilak’s scaffolding embedded with previously studied hydrogels. The tests showed that the composite material was tougher than the competition with a lower coefficient of friction. And though the resulting material did not quite meet the standards of natural cartilage, it easily outperformed all other known potential artificial replacements across the board, including the hydrogel and scaffolding by themselves.

The team’s next step will likely be to implant small patches of the synthetic cartilage in animal models, according to Guilak.

Their work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants AG15768, AR50245, AR48182, AR48852, the Arthritis Foundation, the Collaborative Research Center, AO Foundation, Davos, Switzerland and the NSF (CMMI-1253495, CMMI-1200515, and DMR-1121107).

The ARRR-thritis Buccaneers Raise $5,190 to Fight Arthritis

The Duke Orthopaedics ARRR-thritis Buccaneers raised $5,190 ($3,190 over their initial team goal) at The Jingle Bell Run/Walk held on Saturday, December 7 to benefit The Arthritis Foundation. Way to go Buccaneers!  The entire event raised $111,449.00 which will be used to help fund arthritis research, education, and initiatives that will help improve the lives of those suffering from arthritis and related conditions.  

2013 Jingle Bell Run/Walk Team Photo

2013 Jingle Bell Run/Walk ARRR-thritis Buccaneers Team Photo

Duke Magazine Highlights Ortho Sports Medicine



The Winter 2013 edition of Duke Magazine contains an article entitled, Peak Performance, which features the work of Duke Sports Medicine.  Claude T. Moorman, MD and the work his group is doing to help athletes prevent injury and return to the field after proper training is helping athletes to live their dreams.

Click here to view the full article.

North Carolina’s Best Doctors 2014 – Duke Orthopaedics Physicians Recognized by Business NC Magazine

Business North Carolina has published its 2014 listing of Best Doctors in the state.  We’d like to congratulate our physicians that were recognized in this year’s listing.Best-Doctors


You can also view the full list of all NC physicians listed in the 2014 publication.


Arthritis Foundation – Jingle Bell Run Fundraiser

Dear Friends of Duke Orthopaedics,logo280px

Every year research labs have organized a team of runners entering the “Jingle Bell Run/Walk”, a 1K or 5K race benefiting the Arthritis Foundation. We are indebted to the Arthritis Foundation for everything they do for advocacy and research, especially having supported Duke Orthopaedics with numerous research and fellowship grants in the past few years (now totalling well over $1 million), so we would like to do our part in fund raising for them.

The race is this Saturday in downtown Raleigh. If you would like to enter, please go to the website below and register as part of our team.

With the support of the Department, Duke Orthopaedics was the #1 fundraiser for this race last year, and the team also won the best costume contest. We would like to repeat again this year and we are in a close second place right now. Please consider a contribution to the Arthritis Foundation in the name of Duke Orthopaedics – team name “Duke Orthopaedics ARRR-thritis Buccaneers”.

To donate, go to: http://jinglebellrunraleigh.kintera.org/dukeortho and click on “General Team Donation” or support any team member – any amount is appreciated.

Farsh Guilak