Author(s): Ochi M
Articular cartilage has very limited potential to spontaneously heal, because it lacks vessels and is isolated from systemic regulation. Although there have been many attempts to treat articular cartilage defects, such as drilling, microfracture techniques, soft tissue grafts or osteochondral grafts, no treatment has managed to repair the defects with long-lasting hyaline cartilage. Recently, a regenerative medicine using a tissue engineering technique for cartilage repair has been given much attention in the orthopedic field. In 1994, Brittberg et al. introduced a new cell technology in which chondrocytes expanded in monolayer culture were transplanted into the cartilage defect of the knee. As a second generation of chondrocyte transplantation, since 1996 we have been performing transplantation of tissue-engineered cartilage made ex vivo for the treatment of osteochondral defects of the joints. This signifies a concept shift from cell transplantation to tissue transplantation made ex vivo using tissue engineering techniques. We have reported good clinical results with this surgical treatment. However, extensive basic research is vital to achieve better clinical results with this tissue engineering technique. This article describes our recent research using a minimally invasive tissue engineering technique to promote cartilage regeneration.