/publications/issue/2003/2003-03/2003-03-7138

Turning Fat Cells into Cartilage Cells

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In a study at Duke University Medical Center, adult stem cells that normally form fat are being ?retrained? to form cartilage cells, and researchers have learned that a vital component is the level of oxygen used in the cell-growing process. They have found that cells grown in 20% oxygen, otherwise known as ?room air,? will multiply, but once the oxygen level is reduced to 5%, they begin to transform into chondrocytes, or cartilage cells.

The lower levels of oxygen more closely replicate the conditions of cartilage in the body, which is insufficiently supplied by blood vessels, nerves, and the lymphatic system?contributing to the limited ability of cartilage to repair itself. This important finding has researchers well on their way to their goal of treating joints affected by osteoarthritis with bioengi-neered cartilage.