US researchers have developed a new technique that may enable doctors to regrow broken or diseased joints in patients.
The scientists have regrown leg joints in rabbits using the rabbits' own stem cells.
The research could lead to new treatments to benefit patients whose hips, shoulders or knees damaged by arthritis or injury.
The team removed the leg joints from 10 rabbits and replaced them with artificial scaffolds that were anatomically the same size and shape as rabbit leg joints.
The scaffolds were injected with a growth factor and four weeks later, it was found that the rabbits had regrown their joints and were able to move about normally.
Writing in the The Lancet, the researchers say it is first time an entire joint surface had been regenerated with the return of functions.
The research could benefit patients with hips, shoulders or knees damaged by arthritis or injury.
Regeneration of cartilage and bone both from the host's own stem cells, rather than taking stem cells out of the body, may ultimately lead to clinical applications in patients who need joint regeneration, according to the researchers.
The research is published in The Lancet journal.