This artificial cartilage gets its strength from the stuff in bulletproof vests

synthetic cartilage
COUNTERFEIT CARTILAGE Newly fabricated artificial cartilage made mostly from water is strong and resistant to tears.

A new kind of artificial cartilage, made with the same kind of fiber that fortifies bulletproof vests, is proving stronger than others.

The fabricated material mimics the stiffness, toughness and water content of natural cartilage, researchers report in the Jan. 4 Advanced Materials. This synthetic tissue could replace the cartilage in a person’s body that naturally wears down and heals poorly (SN: 8/11/12, p. 22), alleviating joint pain and potentially sparing many people from having to undergo joint replacement surgery.

Scientists have been trying to fashion artificial cartilage for decades, says Kara Spiller, a biomedical engineer at Drexel University in Philadelphia not involved in the work. But earlier materials were either weaker than the real thing or didn’t pack enough water to transport nutrients to surrounding cells.

The new material is a polymer mixture called a hydrogel that’s mostly…

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