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Degenerative Joint Disease

Knee joint X-Ray

Degenerative joint disease is a disabling disease that is increasing in its prevalence with the increased life expectancy of Western populations. In 2001, 8.6 million UK patients saw their GP regarding a musculoskeletal complaint; over 2 million of these with osteoarthritis and approximately 400,000 with rheumatoid arthritis.

Two common forms occur, the most prevalent being osteoarthritis which is usually caused by changes in the biomechanical environment experienced by moving joints. These biomechanical changes can be caused by obesity (increased weight), repetitive use, trauma, sports injuries and genetic factors. A lesser common but more expensive to treat form is rheumatiod arthritis which is usually caused by some other abnormality in the body where the patients immune system reacts against 'itself' (an autoimmune disease) the consequence being that immune complexes are deposited in joints of the body and their presence there causes inflammatory cells to invade the joint causing pain and eventually joint destruction.

At present there are no treatments for degenerative joint disease other than joint replacement surgery. Thus, new treatments are needed to improve the quality of life of this ever increasing arthritic patient population. Tissue Engineering approaches are now in development and show promise for alternative treatments that will complement and/or supplement the need for joint replacement surgery.