Engineering tissues for osteoarthritis in the TEST Lab

The Engineering and Science building from above. Researchers at the University of Connecticut have developed new tissue engineering technology that could help treat osteoarthritis. Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have developed a new tissue engineering technology. This technology could help treat osteoarthritis, which affects over 30 million U.S. adults each year.  

Syam Nukavarapu is an associate professor of biomedical engineering at UConn and the head of the Tissue Engineering Science and Technology Lab. The TEST Lab has been developing a new surgical approach for osteoarthritis.  

According to the NHS, surgery is generally used to treat the most severe cases of osteoarthritis, or when other treatment options have been exhausted. Nukavarapu’s new approach involves making synthetic bone-cartilage, also called osteochondral grafts. These osteochondral grafts are implanted into the body to cause tissue growth and healing in areas affected by osteoarthritis. 

Because osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints, Nukavarapu’s research with osteochondral grafts focuses on joint surgery. This poses a problem because joints are made up of bone surrounded by a layer of cartilage, which means any treatment for osteoarthritis has to take into account both the bone tissue and the cartilage tissue.  

To address this issue, Nukavarapu’s research uses a gradient graft, in which the structure gradually transitions from a dense bone layer to a less dense cartilage layer. The cartilage side is more porous and filled with a gel to make the graft flexible. This graft incorporates engineering concepts about geometry and scaffolding into its structure.  

In addition to tissue engineering, the TEST Lab also studies biomaterials, bioprinting, bioreactors and chemotaxis. More information can be found at


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