Video: Researchers growing cartilage to treat knee injuries

Knee injuries are one of the most common and most challenging conditions to treat. That's because cartilage doesn't repair itself. But now researchers are looking at a way to grow cartilage in the lab.

Lisa Groom now takes on the hills with confidence. Not long ago, a tennis injury kicked her off the court and onto the couch.

"I hit the shot and won the game and I collapsed onto the ground. I felt my tibia push out the side of my leg totally," she said.

She tore her acl, destroyed her knee cartilage and endured months of pain.

"It can overtake you. I would be awake all night on and off feeling it," said Groom.

Unfortunately the tissue can't re-grow itself.

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"Cartilage cells are very lazy cells," said Dr. Benjamin Ma, UC San Francisco.

Traditional procedures remove damaged cartilage but can't replace it. Dr. Ma is helping develop new outpatient surgery with a patch made of a patient's own cells.

Surgeons remove a sample of the knee cartilage, which is sent to the lab, attached to a 3-D scaffold made of collagen and grown for eight to ten weeks. Then, the cartilage "patch" is implanted into the patient's knee.

"You're actually putting articular cartilage back into the knee and you're not taking it from somewhere else," said Ma.

It's more natural and means patients can give their knees a new start.

"I probably would not have done this three months ago," said Groom.

The procedure doesn't work for arthritis and is not yet FDA approved. The company is planning to launch a phase-three clinical trial in the near future.

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