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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Transmitter may help regenerate cartilage

    A UA professor received a prestigious grant in order to help him continue his research into how a micro-miniature radio transmitter beneath the flesh can help to re-grow cartilage and heal injuries.

    John Szivek, a professor in the UA Department of Orthopedic Surgery and a researcher at the Arizona Arthritis Center, received a $125,000 grant for his research on creating cartilage tissue for use in bone grafts.

    This grant, which is one of only 13 awarded nationwide, supports a study that has never been done before, Szivek said.

    What makes the study unique is its research into inserting a plastic device carrying a load sensor and a micro-miniature radio transmitter that they believe can help grow cartilage to repair injuries.

    The sensor that is inserted could allow researchers to monitor how well the cartilage tissue is responding to stress and physical activity, Szivek said.

    Engineers use these sensors in other applications, but Szivek said his research team is the only one in the world to use them for the purpose of re-growing cartilage.

    “”Because of gravity and your muscle action, you put about five times your body weight equivalent on your knee,”” Szivek said. “”That’s part of the reason we damage our knees. We want to try and understand what the normal loads on cartilage are and that will allow us to grow better cartilage.””

    Szivek said once a patient starts exercising, they would know whether they are overloading their joints or not. With this sensor system, the patients would carry a portable receiver that will alert them and help them protect the cartilage tissue that is growing in their knee.

    The ultimate goal of this research is to eliminate the use of artificial joints in patients who require joint replacement, he said.

    “”We want to be able to rehabilitate patients in some reasonable and intelligent way,”” Szivek said. “”To do that, we need to be able to know what kind of loads to put on their knees while their tissue is growing.””

    Another aspect of the grant is Szivek’s research into growing cartilage tissue using stem cells that are derived from fat.

    “”It turns out that everybody has a lot of stem cells in their fat,”” Szivek said. “”Ten to 25grams of fat has millions to ten millions of stem cells in it. Plus, people don’t mind giving up a little fat. This is one of the core elements of this grant.””

    Chris Geffre , one of Szivek’s MD/PhD students, has helped conduct this research and will continue to do so with the help of the awarded grant.

    “”This grant is amazing,”” Geffre said. “”It has the potential to treat a wide range of patients that might not benefit from current treatments.””

    The study will be conducted with a team from the UA Department of Orthopedic Surgery, the UA Biomedical Engineering Interdisciplinary Program and the Arizona Arthritis Center.

    “”I’m excited to be taking part in the development of this alternative treatment,”” Geffre said.

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