Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Engineering Knee Repair

PostedJanuary 13, 2013

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Anchor Lede: If he could only have waited a few years, Redskins’ quarterback RG-3’s surgery on his A-C-L and L-C-L knee ligaments might have had better odds of success.

Randy Atkins: Surgical reconstruction of the A-C-L uses donor soft tissue – like tendons – and attaches it to the leg bone. But the real A-C-L blends soft tissue into bone through cartilage. Helen Lu, a Columbia University bioengineer, is re-creating that in the lab.

Helen Lu: We think that it’s better to pre-engineer the integration outside the body.

Randy Atkins: She’s making artificial A-C-Ls and each end is cartilage because, in the body, bones fuse with cartilage naturally. For the rest of the artificial ligament, engineers are crafting a perfect mix of calcium content.

Helen Lu: We’ve already characterized all the mechanical properties, so we know what the design criteria are.

Randy Atkins: Lu says a structure that closely mimics the natural A-C-L will minimize joint stress. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.

Anchor Tag: It will be several years before the bioengineered A-C-L is ready for the clinic.