Osteochondral Defects (OCDs) usually occur in the knee or the ankle where bone or cartilage is affected by a repetitive trauma or genetic cause which alters the architecture or composition of the bone. This causes pain, swelling, instability and locking or catching sensation in the affected joint. Traditionally, the treatment for this is grafting bone or cartilage taken from other parts of the body.
The BCRM is a partner in a collaborative EC project, acronym OPHIS (overall value exceeding €9M, BCRM funding €623k) in which nanostructured, biomimetic docking sites for stem cells have been designed to functionalise the surface of 3D scaffolds produced by the commercial partner Finceramica SpA, Italy with the goal of improving both bone and cartilage regeneration in osteochondral defects.
Biospecific contrast agents for the simultaneous detection and treatment of osteoporotic bone and bone tumours have also been developed through the support of the Orthopaedic Research UK (PhD studentship, £98,000). The potential of the technology has been recognised by the Orthopaedic Research UK with the filing of a patent application.
Other “intelligent” biomaterials developed with EC funding exceeding £900k have the potential of treating large bone defects in long bones and vertebrae, affecting hundreds of thousands of people (according to Bone and Joint Decade) in Europe and worldwide as well as to be used as substitutes of damaged intervertebral disc, the major cause of back pain.
These technologies are studied in combination with prevention and rehabilitation treatments for musculoskeletal diseases based on personalised exercise training (PET). Cornerstone of the PET research approach under investigation will be the development of intelligent materials able to improve the sensitivity and reliability of the most advanced molecular biology methodologies broadly identified category of “omics” (i.e. genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and proteomics). The research will link sophisticated biomarker profiles to injury and recovery conditions either in athletes subject to physical stresses or in patients affected by degenerative conditions. The approach has attracted the interest of diagnostic companies, clinicians and sport organisations.