Articular cartilage repair: basic science and clinical progress. A review of the current status and prospects

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2002 Jun;10(6):432-63. doi: 10.1053/joca.2002.0801.


Objective: To review the basic scientific status of repair in articular cartilage tissue and to assess the efficiency of current clinical therapies instigated for the treatment of structural lesions generated therein as a result of trauma or during the course of various diseases, notably osteoarthritis (OA). Current scientific trends and possible directions for the future will also be discussed.

Design: A systematic and critical analysis is undertaken, beginning with a description of the spontaneous repair responses in different types of lesion. Surgical interventions aimed at inducing repair without the use of active biologics will then be considered, followed by those involving active biologics and those drawing on autogenic and allogeneic tissue transplantation principles. Cell transplantation approaches, in particular novel tissue engineering concepts, will be critically presented. These will include growth-factor-based biological treatments and gene transfection protocols. A number of technical problems associated with repair interventions, such as tissue integration, tissue retention and the role of mechanical factors, will also be analysed.

Results: A critical analysis of the literature reveals the existence of many novel and very promising biologically-based approaches for the induction of articular cartilage repair, the vast majority of which are still at an experimental phase of development. But prospective, double-blinded clinical trials comparing currently practiced surgical treatments have, unfortunately, not been undertaken.

Conclusion: The existence of many new and encouraging biological approaches to cartilage repair justifies the future investment of time and money in this research area, particularly given the extremely high socio-economic importance of such therapeutic strategies in the prevention and treatment of these common joint diseases and traumas. Clinical epidemiological and prospective trials are, moreover, urgently needed for an objective, scientific appraisal of current therapies and future novel approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthralgia / therapy
  • Arthroplasty / instrumentation
  • Arthroplasty / methods
  • Arthroscopy / methods
  • Cartilage, Articular / injuries*
  • Cartilage, Articular / surgery
  • Chondrocytes / physiology
  • Debridement / methods
  • Dogs
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / methods
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Osteotomy / methods
  • Periosteum / transplantation
  • Rabbits
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods
  • Wound Healing / physiology