This may look like a close up of a knitted sweater, but the fabric pictured here is much more useful. It is a woven scaffold of artificial fibres, created by scientists at Duke University, which cartilage cells can latch on to and grow in large numbers. The scaffold has been designed to be used within the human body, where it gradually dissolves away, leaving the cartilage cells to replace those that have been worn by disease or age. Preparing cartilage in this way has the advantage that it can be grown in large quantities and performs just like normal cells would.
“If further experiments are successful, the scaffold could be used in clinical trials within three or four years,” said Franklin Moutos, a graduate student in the Orthopedic Bioengineering Laboratory who designed and built the weaving machine. “The first joints to be treated this way would likely be hips and shoulders, though the approach should work for cartilage damage in any joint.”
The image won first place in the “Bio-Art” imaging competition this year, run by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.