Regeneration of Meniscal Cartilage with Use of a Collagen Scaffold. Analysis of Preliminary Data*
A collagen scaffold was designed for use as a template for the regeneration of meniscal cartilage and was tested in ten patients in an initial, Food and Drug Administration-approved, clinical feasibility trial. The goal of the study was to evaluate the implantability and safety of the scaffold as well as its ability to support tissue ingrowth. The study was based on the findings of in vitro and in vivo investigations in dogs that had demonstrated cellular ingrowth and tissue regeneration through the scaffold. Nine patients remained in the study for at least thirty-six months, and one patient voluntarily withdrew after three months for personal reasons.
The collagen scaffold was found to be implantable and to be safe over the three-year period. Histologically, it supported regeneration of tissue in meniscal defects of various sizes. No adverse immunological reactions were noted on sequential serological testing. On second-look arthroscopy, performed either three or six months after implantation, gross and histological evaluation revealed newly formed tissue replacing the implant as it was resorbed. At thirty-six months, the nine patients reported a decrease in the symptoms. According to a scale that assigned 1 point for strenuous activity and 5 points for an inability to perform sports activity, the average score was 1.5 points before the injury, 3.0 points after the injury and before the operation, and 2.4 points at six months postoperatively, 2.2 points at twelve months, 2.0 points at twenty-four months, and 1.9 points at thirty-six months. According to a scale that assigned 0 points for no pain and 3 points for severe pain, the average pain score was 2.2 points preoperatively and 0.6 point thirty-six months postoperatively.
One patient, who had had a repair of a bucket-handle tear of the medial meniscus and augmentation with the collagen scaffold, had retearing of the cartilage nineteen months after implantation. Another patient had debridement because of an irregular area of regeneration at the scaffold-meniscus interface twenty-one months after implantation.
Magnetic resonance imaging scans demonstrated progressive maturation of the signal within the regenerated meniscus at three, six, twelve, and thirty-six months. These findings suggest that regeneration of meniscal cartilage through a collagen scaffold is possible. Additional studies are needed to determine long-term efficacy.