Nov 24 2015 Posted: 14:57 GMT

Consortium led by NUI Galway will develop the world’s first three-dimensional, cell-assembled prototype for human and equine patients suffering tendon injuries


The Regenerative, Modular and Developmental Engineering Laboratory (REMODEL), part of the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM), at NUI Galway, has secured almost €4 million for the development of an advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP) for tendon repair and regeneration. The project will train 15 early stage researchers in the multidisciplinary field of ATMPs, enhancing European competiveness in this sector.

Advanced therapy medicinal products are medicines for human use that are based on genes or cells. They offer ground breaking opportunities for the treatment of disease and injury. ATMPs can include tissue engineered medicines or a combination of one or more medical devices as an integral part of the medicine, for example, cells embedded in a biodegradable matrix or scaffold.

The funding was awarded through the Horizon 2020 grant programme, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Training Networks action. This is the fourth such project being carried out by CÚRAM associated researchers to be funded under this programme. The project, called Tendon Therapy Train, will exploit recent advancements in the process by which cells are grown in controlled conditions, to develop the world’s first three-dimensional, cell-assembled prototype for human and equine patients suffering tendon injuries. The Tendon Therapy Train consortium is led by NUI Galway and is further comprised of six academics, three clinicians and seven industry partners.

Over 30 million human tendon-related procedures take place annually worldwide, with an estimated healthcare expenditure in excess of €145 billion per year. In addition, 46% of racehorses suffer from tendon-related injuries which impacts heavily on an industry which is valued at €100 billion in Europe and US$ 300 billion in the US. Current surgical interventions don’t always work effectively and can hinder normal tissue remodelling and function, which creates the need for new functional and clinically viable regeneration strategies.

Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis, REMODEL director and consortium lead at NUI Galway, said: “The driving hypothesis of this research is that replacement, repair and restoration of impaired tissue function can be accomplished best by using the cells’ own ability to create highly sophisticated structures with a precision and efficiency still unmatched by human-made devices.”

Further, Dr Zeugolis pointed out that, “The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks award will train a cohort of 15 researchers to doctoral level in the area of ATMPs which involves numerous disciplines, equipping them with transferable skills in each discipline that will further European-based knowledge, innovation, competitiveness and leadership in this field.”

Speaking about the award, Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of CÚRAM, said: “Tendon Therapy Train is an indicative example of the clinically relevant, cutting-edge research and innovation conducted here at NUI Galway. We are delighted to have secured funding yet again for this highly competitive award.”

CÚRAM is the National Centre for Research in Medical Devices, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, with the goal of radically improving health outcomes for patients with chronic illnesses.

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