Health Check: Biomedical meniscus

    Someday, stem cells could be used to repair one of the most common knee injuries. (WJAR)

    Someday, stem cells could be used to repair one of the most common knee injuries.

    The is research being conducted in a Rhode Island Hospital laboratory.

    “It’s very exciting,” said Dr. Brett Owens, who is one of the researchers, as well as an assistant professor at Brown University and an orthopedic surgeon out of Rhode Island Hospital and the Miriam.

    Researchers are looking at using human stem cells in a lab setting to heal a meniscal tear. The meniscus, is a rubbery disc that cushions the knee.

    Right now, Owens said one of the challenges is the blood supply.

    “It's really hard to get them to heal,” Owens said. “We can try to suture them back together. One of the challenges is getting it to heal.”

    They create a meniscus tear in a petri dish then add human stem cells. After five weeks, the healing process is already taking place.

    Referring to a slide, co-researcher Chat Jayasuriya, PhD said so far, so good.

    "Over here, you see the human cells are actually repairing,” he said.

    Currently, the work is strictly being conducted in the lab. But thanks to new funding, it will be expanded to include lab animals. Eventually, it will include humans.

    That could help Owens better assist his patients

    “If he wanted to use these cells, what he can do is, he sees a tear like this. He could suture it and put the cells on top. The cells will help repair the tear,” said Jayasuriya.

    The research is one of the first pilot awards from the Brown University-based Advance Clinical Translational Research initiative. Last year, it received funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

    The total of the five-year program award is $19.5 million. The research is being funded at $75,000 for one year.

    The purpose of the translational research initiative is to fund collaborative research involving multiple partners, depending on the project, including researchers from Brown University, Lifespan, Care New England, the Providence VA Medical Center, URI, and the Rhode Island Quality Institute.

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