Articular cartilage degradation, whether caused by injury or arthritis, affects a tremendous number of patients worldwide. Since cartilage is an avascular tissue, it does not heal or regenerate like other tissues such as skin or bones. Therefore, after trauma to the cartilage surface, the damage continues to degrade until severe pain and inhibited mobility, especially in the load-bearing knee and hip joints, necessitate extreme treatments such as total joint replacement. New treatment options involving implants from cellular or tissue-based materials show promise for treatment of localized defects, and that the new cartilage will integrate with its surrounding host tissue if it can remain effectively secured. A critical issue for the success of tissue-based repair, however, remains the adequate initial fixation of the implant so that it remains in place until the native tissue and implant can integrate. Such fixation should not prevent any biological integration that can occur or induce substantial new trauma to the tissue.
A possible approach involves the application of a photosensitive material, which is then activated with a light source to attach the implant and host tissues together in either a photothermal or photochemical process. A combination of cartilage-specific factors, such as high collagen content and a biphasic functionality, suggests significant potential for photochemical bonding, a method that typically employs excitation wavelengths unmanageable for more vascularized tissues. The present study therefore investigates whether photoactivated bonding of a cartilage-cartilage interface can be achieved, thereby offering a viable method for more effective repair of damaged articular surfaces.
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