A new study out of Boise State University in the U.S may one day lead to new graphene-based treatments for osteoarthritis, potentially preventing the need for joint replacement.

The study investigates the compressive mechanical properties of graphene foam – soft tissue composites. Previous studies have shown graphene foam’s compatibility with chondrogenic cell lines for cartilage tissue engineering. This is reportedly the first study to focus on the viscoelastic behavior of the engineered tissue to test the functionality of the grown cartilage.

“2D graphene has one of the highest elastic moduli of any other material, and graphene foam demonstrates interesting damping capabilities. These qualities, among others, are extremely important as we explore tissue engineering because articular cartilage found in joints must dissipate high impact forces.” said Katie Yocham, lead author on the paper and doctoral student in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering.

“Katie’s strong efforts on this project have provided the biomedical community with a rigorous characterization of the bulk mechanical behavior of cellularized graphene foam. This baseline knowledge is an important step in the rising use of graphene foam for biomedical applications,” said Trevor Lujan, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at Boise State University and an author of the study.

The use of graphene can also drive adhered stem cells’ extracellular matrix production, which consists of biomolecules secreted by cells within the connective tissues and organs of the body. The interactions of cells with the extracellular matrix is the focus of a National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence which supported this research by establishing an Institutional Development Award Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Matrix Biology at Boise State University.

“Understanding how graphene scaffolds can be used to support cell differentiation and direct generation of specific engineered tissues includes the synthesis of tissue-specific extracellular matrices. The NIH Center for Matrix Biology at Boise State is focused on understanding factors that promote the formation of an authentic extracellular matrix in both composition and molecular organization,” said Professor of Biology and Center Directo Julie Oxford.



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