The Elusive Path to Cartilage Regeneration

Authors

  • Ernst B. Hunziker

    Corresponding author
    1. Center of Regenerative Medicine for Skeletal Tissues Department of Clinical Research, University of Bern Murtenstrasse 35, P.O. Box 54, 3010 Bern (Switzerland)
    • Center of Regenerative Medicine for Skeletal Tissues Department of Clinical Research, University of Bern Murtenstrasse 35, P.O. Box 54, 3010 Bern (Switzerland).
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Abstract

Numerous attempts have been made to develop an efficacious strategy for the repair of articular cartilage. These endeavors have been undaunted, if not spurred, by the challenge of the task and by the largely disappointing outcomes in animal models. Of the strategies that have been lately applied in a clinical setting, the autologous-chondrocyte-transplantation technique is the most notorious example. This methodology, which was prematurely launched on the clinical scene, was greeted with enthusiasm and has been widely adopted. However, a recent prospective and randomized clinical trial has revealed the approach to confer no advantage over conventional microfracturing. Why is the repair of articular cartilage such a seemingly intractable problem? The root of the evil undoubtedly lies in the tissue's poor intrinsic healing capacity. But the failure of investigators to tackle the biological stumbling blocks systematically rather than empirically is hardly a less inauspicious circumstance. Moreover, it is a common misbelief that the formation of hyaline cartilage per se suffices, whereas to be durable and functionally competent, the tissue must be fully mature. An appreciation of this necessity, coupled with a thorough understanding of the postnatal development of articular cartilage, would help to steer investigators clear of biological cul-de-sacs.

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