In the future, medications may be available that protect the cartilage from the deteriorating consequences of osteoarthritis.
Surgical innovation has led to a technique for the repair of isolated splits of cartilage (fissures) of the knee. In this procedure, a patient's own cartilage is actually grown in the laboratory, then inserted into the fissure area and sealed over with a "patch" of the patient's own bone covering the tissue. While this is not a procedure for the cartilage damage of osteoarthritis, it does open the door for future cartilage research. These and other developing areas hold promise for new approaches to an old problem.
Investigators at the National Institutes of Health are currently looking into whether or not taking glucosamine or chondroitin could actually improve or protect the quality of the cartilage in joints affected by osteoarthritis.
Research scientists have found that doxycycline, a tetracycline drug, has been shown to slow the progression of cartilage degeneration in the knees of patients with osteoarthritis. More studies are needed to determine the significance of this early but interesting work.
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