Large animal models in experimental knee sports surgery: focus on clinical translation.
Large animal models play a crucial role in sports surgery of the knee, as they are critical for the exploration of new experimental strategies and the clinical translation of novel techniques. The purpose of this contribution is to provide critical aspects of relevant animal models in this field, with a focus on paediatric anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, high tibial osteotomy, and articular cartilage repair. Although there is no single large animal model strictly replicating the human knee joint, the sheep stifle joint shares strong similarities. Studies in large animal models of paediatric ACL reconstruction identified specific risk factors associated with the different surgical techniques. The sheep model of high tibial osteotomy is a powerful new tool to advance the understanding of the effect of axial alignment on the lower extremity on specific issues of the knee joint. Large animal models of both focal chondral and osteochondral defects and of osteoarthritis have brought new findings about the mechanisms of cartilage repair and treatment options. The clinical application of a magnetic device for targeted cell delivery serves as a suitable example of how data from such animal models are directly translated into in clinical cartilage repair. As novel insights from studies in these translational models will advance the basic science, close cooperation in this important field of clinical translation will improve current reconstructive surgical options and open novel avenues for regenerative therapies of musculoskeletal disorders.