Acting like hinges, allowing our mouths to open and close, our temporomandibular joints (TMJ) connect skull to jawbone. Within each joint, strong and flexible fibrocartilage tissue acts as a cushion and helps with movement. Around 25% of people suffer with TMJ disorders – which can cause pain and limit jaw movement – often as a result of damage to the fibrocartilage, and which can be permanent. At the moment, the treatments available are limited, but researchers have now identified stem cells (coloured blue) within the TMJ itself that can be manipulated to successfully make new cartilage (coloured red). So far this has been achieved in lab-grown cells and in a mouse model. Building on these results could not only provide a much-needed solution for TMJ disorders, but may also help in repairing fibrocartilage damage in other joints.
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