Using nasal cartilage cells to repair joints is nothing to sniff at.
It has worked in goats. And now, in the first human trial, researchers at the University of Basel have taken the cells, called chondrocytes, from the noses of 10 patients with damaged knee joints and grown them 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 due to additional athletic injuries.) MRI scans showed that the grafts looked like normal hyaline cartilage, the hard-to-replicate material that coats the tip of bones, the team reports October 20 in The Lancet. Tests in more people are needed to determine whether the technique is truly ready for prime time.