Tom Brady and numerous other athletes can surely attest to the fact that tearing your knee’s anterior cruciate ligament really sucks. Not only can it not heal itself, there’s a good chance that the tendon graft used to reconstruct it will cause you permanent pain. Fortunately, Northwestern University may have a solution to this, one which comes in the form of nanotechnology.
If you follow sports at all, then you’ve probably heard about athletes rupturing their ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament. It connects the femur to the tibia, and once it breaks, it’s incapable of healing. Treatment most often involves reconstructing the ACL using grafts from the patellar tendon, which connects the patella (aka the kneecap) to the tibia – although this can present problems of its own. Now, scientists at Northwestern University in Illinois are creating a man-made replacement ACL, which could make treatment much more effective. According to professor of biomedical engineering Guillermo Ameer, who is leading the project, the use of patellar tendon grafts often results in knee discomfort that never goes away. This isn’t surprising, as the procedure involves removing part of the existing patellar tendon to take the place of the ACL – in fact, what’s left of the patellar tendon can subsequently end up rupturing, too.