NEW DELHI: Scientists from IIT Guwahati have
synthesised mats made of silk-proteins and bioactive glass fibres that they
believe can assist the growth of bone cells and repair worn-out joints in arthritis patients.
The disease most commonly affects joints in the knees, hips, hands, feet, and
spine and is marked by the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bones.
Left untreated, it can cause severe pain, swelling, and eventually limited
range of movement.
"Current clinical treatment methods are limited by lack of viable tissue
substitutes to aid the repair process," Biman B Mandal from Indian
Institute of Technology Guwahati (IITG)
To develop a suitable tissue substitute, scientists, including those from the
University College London in the UK, looked into the natural bone-cartilage
interface and tried to mimic it synthetically in lab conditions.
Knee osteoarthritis is the most common bone and joint disease in India.
However, Mandal pointed out that the available clinical grafts were expensive.
"We used silk, a natural protein to fabricate electrospun mats to mimic
the cartilage portion and bioactive glass to develop a composite material,
similar to the natural tissue," said Mandal.
For the mat, scientists used a kind of silk easily available in North-east
"Muga (Assam) silk is endowed with properties that enhance the healing
process," he said.
The researchers adopted a green fabrication approach for the developing the
silk composite mats - electrospinning.
"It is similar to knitting, except that it utilises electric high voltage
force to draw ultrafine fibres," Mandal said.
A layer by layer approach was followed, where the bone layer was first formed,
on top of which the cartilage layer was developed. The resulting composite mat
resembled the architecture of the bone-cartilage interface.
To assist the regenerative process, the mats would be grafted in the defected
joint with cells harvested from the patient.
"The mats bond with the native tissue and acts as an artificial tissue
construct. Eventually the mats degrade with time and new tissue is formed in
its place," Mandal said.