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University of Missouri

MOPping Up Cartilage Grafts

MU researchers preserve cartilage for patients in need.

cartilage container

A new solution and container preserve donor cartilage longer than the traditional method. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Each year, thousands of people damage knee cartilage in athletic events, vehicle collisions, falls, and even just the wear and tear of daily activities. Currently, chances are slim that they’ll receive grafts of living cartilage that will allow them to regain near‐normal function. Instead, surgeons could opt to implant artificial joints of metal and plastic that patients must protect by living lives of low activity. New research at Mizzou promises to change all that.

Although living cartilage tissue from organ donors is available from tissue banks, it must undergo two weeks of testing to ensure its safety before it can be used in patients. By then, it is viable only for another two weeks, which is typically too little time to locate recipients and schedule surgery. More than 80 percent of such tissue goes to waste.

Now, Mizzou researchers have developed a new preservation method that triples the period tissue is available for transplant. That provides much‐needed time for healthy cartilage grafts to make it to patients, according to researchers Jimi Cook, director of MU’s Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory, and James Stannard, medical director of the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute. Historically, cartilage‐preservation methods call for sealing donated tissues in bags of standard preservation solution and refrigerating them. Cook and Stannard’s new approach, the Missouri Osteochondral Allograft Preservation System, or MOPS, stores tissue at room temperature in a new solution and container.

About 2,500 people get these types of grafts each year,” Cook says. “We believe the new system could quadruple that number over the first five years of use.”