One modern medical advancement in cartilage regeneration, introduced in 2005, is the cell and scaffold technique, which involves inserting synthetic material that mimics natural bone and cartilage into the affected area, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery. The synthetic material acts as a scaffold, allowing cells to move into the damaged area and stimulate cartilage regeneration inside the scaffold.
A future treatment for cartilage regeneration may involve the use of embryonic stem cells, states Shaun Mason for the UCLA Newsroom. In previous experiments, researchers used stem cells to make chondrocytes, which are precursor cells to cartilage. Using tissue engineering, the scientists monitored and tested the growth of the chondrocytes into cartilage cells in various stages, confirming the correct development of cartilage. Complete regeneration of cartilage involves several different cells; therefore, researchers are testing various combinations of cells that are precursors to cartilage and attempting different protocols to determine the best method for complete cartilage regeneration. Treatment using embryonic stem cells may reach clinical trials by 2017.
As of November 2015, treatments for cartilage regeneration include physical therapy, debridement, autologous chondrocyte implantation, mosaicplasty and marrow stimulation, explains the Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center. Autologous chondrocyte implantation involves taking a small piece of an individual's cartilage and using it to grow more cartilage cells. The new cells are then implanted or injected into the damaged cartilage to encourage regeneration of the cells.