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REMEDI Researchers Take Part in European Osteoarthritis Project

November 30th 2010

Researchers at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway are involved in a new multi million euro European Union funded project which aims to develop new methods for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

The project entitled: ’Gene Activated Matrices for Bone and Cartilage Regeneration in Arthritis’ (GAMBA) is coordinated by the University Hospital rechts der Isar, Munich Technical University, Germany with a total budget of € 3.2 million. REMEDI with 12 per cent of the funding, joins a team of international specialists from nine research groups from Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland to investigate new methods for inducing regenerative processes within the body.

The project aims to develop novel methods for the treatment of osteoarthritis by stimulating the self healing capacity of damaged cartilage and bone. Stem cells with the capacity to make bone or cartilage will be placed on different materials within the knee. Whether the cells become bone or cartilage can be controlled externally with drugs or heat application for example. This will be achieved through the use of gene therapy and will provide control both in space and time of what happens in the damaged knee joint offering improved treatment options for the future. Another aspect of this research will focus on developing strategies to engineer cells found in the joint to produce an anti-inflammatory agent in direct response to any inflammation that might occur as osteoarthritis develops or progresses.

An essential part of the project will be to initiate a public debate on ethical, legal and societal issues connected to the research. Novel ways of outreach methods called patient and citizen panels will be used. Galway will host one of these efforts to enhance awareness of nanomedicine in the general public and appreciation of public expectations and reservations in the research community.

Arthritis is a serious national health problem in Ireland affecting nearly three quarters of a million men and women with more than one in six people affected. A significant majority of people suffering from arthritis have osteoarthritis. This is the ’wear and tear’ form of arthritis and results in joint and cartilage damage and increased risk of orthopaedic dependencies. The majority of Irish people over 55 years of age have x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis at some joint in their body. The cause of osteoarthritis is still unknown and current treatments mainly address the symptoms by reduction of pain and inflammation. These therapies are not restorative and often end in total joint replacement.

“GAMBA brings nanomedicine to Osteoarthritis research and, uniquely, will involve both patients and the general public in an effort to promote understanding and acceptance of its potential. We are delighted at REMEDI to be part of such an innovative and important project,” says Dr Mary Murphy, the GAMBA leader at REMEDI.