Joint effort leads to joint patent

University of Missouri researchers recently received a patent on a method of joint repair that will be beneficial to the health of patients’ joints.

Pfeiffer headshot.

Ferris Pfeiffer, assistant professor of bioengineering and orthopaedic surgery, Aaron M. Stoker, associate research professor of orthopaedic surgery, and James L. Cook, professor of orthopaedic surgery, received the patent for their method of using tapered cartilage plugs to repair damaged tissue in joints rather than the standard cylindrical plug.

Ferris Pfeiffer, assistant professor of bioengineering and orthopaedic surgery; Aaron M. Stoker, associate research professor of orthopaedic surgery; and James L. Cook, professor of orthopaedic surgery, received the patent for their method of using tapered cartilage plugs to repair damaged tissue in joints rather than the standard cylindrical plug. Their work was funded in part by a grant from the University of Missouri’s Coulter Translational Partnership Program.

“When you hammer on it, you’re hammering on live tissue and killing cells,” Pfeiffer explained.The current method of repairing damaged cartilage in joints uses cylindrical cartilage plugs taken from cadavers, which then must be hammered or driven into the damaged area in order to fit. Pfeiffer, Stoker, and Cook’s method, called tapered osteochondral allografting, tapers the cartilage plug so that it goes in easier and with less force, lessening potential damage to the rest of the joint, while still maintaining a strong hold at the top.

“This one is tapered. The end you put in is smaller in diameter and goes in extremely easy. It’s dimensioned so that when it bottoms out, it holds just as solid as the cylindrical one.”

Improving this technology is important, particularly for younger patients or patients with just minor joint defects. Instead of replacing the full joint, and thus throwing out good tissue with bad, clinicians can just replace the damaged sections.

Also, clinicians are reticent to do full joint replacements on patients under the age of 50, because the odds are high that they’ll outlive the new joint and need an additional replacement.

“Recovery times should be shorter for this, because there’s much less trauma to it. … Plus, if you just have a small local defect, it doesn’t make sense to throw away good tissue to replace with a whole knee,” Pfeiffer said.

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