How an injectable gel could be used to treat knee injuries

There's a very good chance that either you or someone you know has suffered some sort of knee injury that required more than just a bag of ice and a couple of aspirin to treat.

While chances are good that either you or the person you know made a full recovery thanks to a simple regimen of rest and/or physical therapy, it's possible that more drastic measures proved necessary. Indeed, knee surgery might have been undertaken in an attempt to repair what was eventually diagnosed as torn cartilage.

While knee surgery like this can be effective for some, experts say there is also a very good chance that it won't work or possibly result in complications for others. Indeed, they argue that even if the procedure is successful, there's no guarantee that future surgeries won't be needed to replace worn out artificial joints or that the patient won't go on to develop debilitating osteoarthritis.

In recognition of this reality, researchers at the University of Iowa are currently working on the creation of a so-called bioactive injectable hydrogel that they believe will be able to not only repair, but regenerate cartilage in the knee, essentially eliminating the need for the type of impractical, expensive and invasive knee surgeries outlined above.

While a complete scientific explanation of how the hydrogel actually works is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, it will suffice to say that the researchers discovered that cartilage does indeed have regenerative properties and that they harnessed these properties to make the hydrogel.

"Our approach aims to leverage the body's own capacity for repair, and what we've shown is that cartilage does have regenerative potential -- you just have to manipulate it just right," explained one of the researchers.

It's worth noting that while the new cartilage created using the hydrogel has been found to incorporate seamlessly with existing knee cartilage, the researchers did find that it was lacking the same level of strength. However, they did theorize that exercise and therapy might help rectify this situation.

As for when you can expect to see this hydrogel in an operating room near you, it may be a long wait. The researchers anticipate beginning human trials in five years and, of course, would have to secure FDA approval.

Nevertheless, it's highly encouraging to see this type of progress being made, as it will not only allow injured athletes to get back to the sports they love, but injured workers to return to the jobs they need.

If you've suffered a debilitating knee injury that has made it all but impossible to continue working, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to understand your rights and options as they relate to disability benefits.