Researchers: Magnets may be useful in delaying joint replacements

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Researchers are looking at how magnets may be useful in putting off knee replacements.

Cartilage, the tissue that lets our joints move without pain, doesn't last a lifetime, which is why so many knee and hip replacements are done.

Hannah Zlotnick, a bioengineering graduate student who works in the University of Pennsylvania's McKay Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, is testing a way to use magnets to move cartilage cells around in a lab so they form a structure that could be used to replace damaged cartilage in the body, giving a patient more time before surgery is needed.

"Our hope here is that maybe some of these regenerative techniques would better suit that younger population and even if the tissue only lasts 20 years or so, it prolongs the time until they become a better candidate for something like a knee replacement,” Zlotnick explained.

Buying more time before surgery is helpful, she said, because these mechanical joints only last so many years.

So, if a person is too young when the joint is replaced, it's more likely another joint replacement operation will be required years down the road.