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Collaborative Success Stories: Alive and Kicking

Knee MRI

University of Missouri scientists have developed the first living-tissue knee replacement.

Good knees are essential to a healthy, active lifestyle. When knee injury or arthritis occurs, exercise grinds to a halt. Knee replacement surgery can help, but artificial knees don’t support high-impact activities like jogging or tennis. Moreover, the metal and plastic components break down over time.

Now, researchers Dr. James “Jimi” Cook and Dr. James Stannard have developed a biological knee replacement. Using MRI data of a damaged knee, a customized mold is injected with a “biological jello” infused with cartilage cells. New cartilage grows in approximately three weeks using special culturing methods. A surgeon then removes the arthritic surface and secures the living biologic joint in its place.

Not only does a biologic knee replacement not deteriorate—it adapts to the body and grows stronger over time. So far, the surgery has been successfully performed on veterinary patients including dogs and horses. Now, with funding from The Coulter Foundation, Cook and Stannard are validating the process using human tissues.

Thanks to MU’s Comparative Orthopaedics Lab and Missouri Orthopaedic Institute, artificial knees may someday be a thing of the past.

Dr. Jimi Cook has a dual appointment in the School of Medicine and College of Veterinary Medicine. He is the director of MU’s Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory. Dr. James Stannard serves as chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and is the medical director of the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine