Interview with Dr. Tobias Winkler, orthopedic expert at Berlin's Charité Hospital
"The joint is a complex organ, with bone and cartilage being in one organ together. Bone is actually a very simple tissue, because bone remembers how it grew."
DW-TV: "Dr. Tobias Winkler is a doctor of orthopedics and also a researcher on muscle regeneration. Doctor Winkler, why go through this complicated process of breeding bones and joints instead just putting in a new one out of metal?"
Tobias Winkler: "New ones out of metal are never as good as they are promised to be. So patients get gradually older and they need exchange operations and with every operation tissue has to be sacrificed and function is deteriorating."
DW-TV: "So is there actually hope that one day these artificial breeded joints will be as good as the original ones?"
Tobias Winkler: "The hope exists, although we are far away from that."
DW-TV: "It seems quite easy to breed the bones, but it seems very complicated to breed joints. Why is that so?"
Tobias Winkler: "First of all, the joint is a complex organ, with bone and cartilage being in one organ together. Bone is actually a very simple tissue, because bone remembers how it grew."
DW-TV: "Actually when we break our bones then they will just heal again by itself."
Tobias Winkler: "Absolutely ... this is a fact. So the bone will heal by itself, and the cartilage doesn't know how to heal, so we need to help it."
Tobias Winkler: "Cartilage has no vessels to bring blood and oxygen to the tissue, and bone has its vessels, has its nerves, and with this, all the circumstances which are needed for bone regeneration --for tissue regeneration -- are fulfilled in bone."
DW-TV: "But does it work quite well to breed actually artificial cartilage?"
Tobias Winkler: "It works quite well. We already harvest cartilage out of patients, and we then cultivate this in the lab. And the cartilage is then put back into the patients, either in structural forms or without structure. We even can put only structure in cartilage defects, and the patient will reseed or refill these structures with its own cells and these cells then, they mimic cartilage."
DW-TV: "And that means you can already help people suffering from arthritis today?"
Tobias Winkler: "Arthritis is another problem because arthritis is more or less a systemic disease of the joint. And the cartilage lesion which is circumscribed -- the sports lesion -- is better to treat."
DW-TV: "I understand. What about the muscles. Is there a chance to breed muscles?"
Tobias Winkler: "There is a chance, although for in-vitro cultivation only very small muscles have been bred so far. Although we are gradually knowing now that the muscle is a very important organ for the joint, because it moves the joint. And this is all the effort we just put in."
DW-TV: "And that means you just inject stem cells into a hurt muscle, to make it heal again?"
Tobias Winkler: "Yes exactly, so in animals we have already had very good results with stem cell injections... stem cell transplantations into injured muscles. We've had a very good improved muscle function from that."
Interview: Ingolf Baur