June 26, 2006
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
UMDNJ Orthopedic Surgeon Receives NIH Grant
to Develop Laboratory-Produced Knee Cartilage Replacement
NEW BRUNSWICK — An orthopedic surgeon at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a tissue engineered implant replacement of badly damaged knee meniscus that will effectively restore function.
A two-year NIH grant for $250,000 per year was awarded to Dr. Charles J. Gatt, chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick for his ongoing development of a bio-engineered tissue replacement implant for badly damaged meniscus. The knee meniscus, frequently referred to as cartilage, is the crescent-shaped cartilage disk that improves contact between the femur and tibia surfaces of the knee joint, providing strength and flexibility to the knee.
The grant covers new biomaterials and laboratory work on a design to develop and implement an effective soft tissue cartilage replacement. “We expect to develop implantable devices within five years to use on relatively young, active athletes individuals,” said Dr. Gatt.
Typically, athletes tear portions of the meniscus during unnatural and sharp movements during activities and strenuous exercise, causing pain and inhibiting flexibility and strength in the knee, prompting surgery to repair the tear. But since the cartilage is prone to tears, in many instances Dr. Gatt believes athletes may avoid repeat surgeries to repair damage and grueling reconditioning to strengthen the knee.
“We’re trying to optimize a mix of collagen and biocompatible polymers in laboratory development to assess the mechanical suitability of such devices for successful implants to replace badly damaged meniscus,” he said.
UMDNJ is the nations largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the states three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.