Nose cells fix knee cartilage

hyaline cartilage

Swiss doctors took healthy tissue from people’s noses to make grafts that can function like healthy joint cartilage (shown) and use it to repair knees.

Jubal Harshaw/Shutterstock

Using nasal cartilage cells to repair joints is nothing to sniff at.

It has worked in goats. Now, in the first human trial, researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have grown cells called chondrocytes, taken from the noses of 10 patients with damaged knee joints, into cartilage grafts. These repair patches were then surgically implanted into the patients’ knee joints.

Two years after surgery, nine patients have seen improvements in knee function, quality of life and pain. (One patient dropped out of the trial because of additional athletic injuries.) MRI scans showed that the grafts looked like normal hyaline cartilage, the hard-to-replicate material that coats the tips of bones, the team reports in the Oct. 22 Lancet. Tests in more people are needed to determine whether the technique is ready for prime time. 

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate degrees in biology and English from Trinity University and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

More Stories from Science News on Health & Medicine