"We’re very interested in the crocodile because they have a lot of cartilage and it is of a very high quality."
Scientists from Central Queensland University are using crocodile cartilage for their research into possible treatments for joint injuries and arthritis in human.
Head Researcher Dr Padraig Strappe said that growth factors in the crocodiles cartilage help to promote adult stem cells from fat tissue or bone marrow, to become cartilage.
“We’re working in the field of what’s called tissue engineering, trying to make synthetic cartilage that might be able to repair damaged joints,” Strappe said.
“And we’re very interested in the crocodile because they have a lot of cartilage and it is of a very high quality.”
Specimens undergo a process called decellularisation which removes the cells and the DNA of the croc, leaving only valuable growth factors which are then moulded with adult stem cells using a 3D printer and injected or implanted into human joints.
Strappe’s research is originally the consequence of a decade old study which ranked the proteoglycan levels in crocodiles at the top of a list of prospective species.
The cartilage is sourced from the nearby Koorana Crocodile Farm which produces skins for the overseas fashion market and meat within Australia.
Researchers value the cartilage around the rib cage for its density and quality as well as that further down towards the tail.
“The crocodile itself has a lot of cartilage in its body and large joints that have to withstand a lot of weight,” Strappe said.