Cartilage repair is a painful operation that provides patients with only 10-15 years of respite from joint pain. The University of Bradford, together with University spin out company Advanced Gel Technology, is developing a cartilage repair gel that could delay the need for invasive surgery for five years or more. The hydrogel, which is not yet ready for clinical trials, is intended for traumatic injuries, including those sustained in car collisions or sports.

The technique involves drilling a hole into the affected area and filling it with gel. The gel takes the place of missing or damaged cartilage and prevents bones from grinding against each other. The £135,000 project began three years ago, and it is hoped the procedure will be simplified to the point where it can be conducted as a day surgery.

Dr Pete Twigg, Lead Researcher of the Cartilage Repair Project at the University of Bradford, said “The potential for improved quality of life is huge. The number of people suffering from cartilage problems is increasing every year. Total joint replacement is very successful, but may not be appropriate for younger, more active people. They are often encouraged to put off surgery until the pain is disabling, but a conservative replacement treatment could relieve pain and restore function at a much earlier stage.”