Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in joints to wear down over time. Unfortunately, this cartilage cannot repair itself. When left untreated treated, the damage increases the load, or burden, on the remaining cartilage, raising patients' risk of developing degenerative arthritis.

Physicians use cartilage cell implantation to treat damaged articular knee cartilage. Articular cartilage forms a protective layer covering the ends of bones in joints. To perform this procedure, physicians remove cartilage cells from the injured knee, clone the cells in the lab and re-implant them back into the joint to regenerate cartilage on the damaged surface of the knee.

Now, a product called Trufit, a biodegradable plug (also called scaffolding), improves this procedure. The scaffolding provides structure for stem cells in the blood to attach and support cartilage regeneration. Trufit has properties similar to the body's natural cartilage and bone. It fills the space where physicians remove cells, and it's porous, so it helps tissue grow. Trufit is biodegradable. In approximately nine months, when the cartilage has regenerated, Trufit is reabsorbed into the body.

After just one surgery, patients enjoy relief from knee pain. Within two to four weeks, patients can walk with crutches, and by four to six months, they can begin engaging in low-impact sports. There are no known side effects with Trufit.

How arthritis affects knee joints

Osteoarthritis gradually destroys cartilage in the knee, forming scar tissue and painful bony growths. Researchers have identified a primary culprit for an increased risk of osteoarthritis: above normal levels of the protein beta-catenin in people who have a rare genetic mutation for the protein that regulates levels of beta-catenin.

High levels of beta-catenin make osteoarthritis worse in several ways. It causes misguided cell growth, and forms bone where cartilage should be. Beta-catenin signals the body to produce more of an enzyme that breaks down and destroys the type of collagen that makes up 90 percent of articular cartilage. High levels of beta-catenin also produce a six-fold increase in the activity of a gene that encourages cells to differentiate cartilage from bone.

Since this mutation is rare, scientists are studying how certain knee injuries or biochemical reactions to mechanical force (heavy weight) causes beta-catenin to rise in the first place.