Could joint repair techniques be used in both humans and horses?
First off – true confessions. I am a Cornellian through and through and I bleed red and white. That out of the way, I am proud to tell you about a partnership that may help many horses with stifle injuries in the future – and incidentally a few humans with knee problems too!
Recently a team at Cornell worked on five horses to repair meniscal cartilage injuries. The team used a veterinary surgeon (Dr. Lisa Fortier), a human surgeon (Russ Warren, a specialist employed by the Giants football team) and a biomechanical engineer from the Hospital for Special Surgery, an affiliate of the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City (Suzanne Maher). There were plenty of support staff as well but these three were the main force behind this research.
Maher developed a biocompatible scaffold to insert into the damaged joint. This provides support for the injured joint to help with repairs and hopefully to offset the development of arthritis. Cartilage is notoriously short on vasculature, which makes it so difficult to repair. Any help that can be given to the joint is a plus.
A second procedure will make its debut in a couple of weeks with sheep going under the knife. The sheep will benefit from a custom designed meniscal transplant. A professor of dental medicine at Columbia University (Jeremy Mao) has come up with a biodegradable transplant that is also infused with growth hormone. The goal is to provide a template for regeneration of the meniscal cartilage.
Both surgeries benefit from MRI evaluations of the joints involved, leading to custom designed and produced 3-D printed replacement pieces. Obviously there will need to be some more surgeries done before the technique will cross over to humans but in the meantime, a number of animal patients will benefit. It is also refreshing to see veterinarians and physicians working together on challenges that face both human and animal patients. Bringing in biomechanical engineers and dentists simply rounds out a team of talented, far thinking researchers.