A team from IIT-Bombay has developed a technology for minimally invasive and inexpensive treatment for osteoarthritis, one which also reduces pain and disease progression.
Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the material that cushions the joints, called cartilage, breaks down, ultimately leading to loss of joint movement.
The research, which has been going on for three years, focused on cartilage regeneration technique.
According to Dr Rinti Banerjee, project guide and professor, Department of Biosciences & Bioengineering at IIT Bombay, the technology does not involve any kind of surgical implant. Instead, a liquid material is injected into the joints, which then forms a gel like meshwork and allows the cartilage cells to grow and remains in place for a long period of time.
The team said that the liquid material technique developed by them addresses the root cause of the condition by tackling cartilage damage and working on the cartilage itself to regenerate it.
The findings have been published in the internationally peer-reviewed journal Acta Biomaterialia.
“Osteoarthritis is a progressive musculo-skeletal disorder, affecting around 10 per cent of the population globally above the age of 60 years, and causing gradual degeneration of bone joints. Cartilages are flexible soft tissues that cover the ends of bone in a joint. Over the passage of time, with the breakdown of cartilages, bones start to rub against each other causing stiffness, pain and loss of joint movement,” Banerjee said.
“Our team has been working on cartilage regeneration using naturally occurring biopolymers. Biopolymer development was in collaboration with Dr Jayakrishnan from IIT Madras. Biopolymers are polymers of natural origin and form hydrogels, which promote tissue growth. Hydrogels are networks that can absorb water, but are prevented from dissolving due to their cross-linked structure,” said Banerjee.
According to experts, a polymer is a large molecule and play an essential role in our daily lives. It comprises both synthetic polymers and natural polymers like DNA and proteins, which are critical to biological functions.
Department of Science and Technology (DST) young scientist Dr Biji Balakrishnan, under Banerjee’s mentorship, has developed an “in-situ gelling biopolymeric hydrogel system” that can be injected to the site of the injury as a liquid, which solidifies after about 25 seconds, assuming the shape of the cartilage defect.
According to standard protocol, any new technology first undergoes animal trials followed by toxicology testing. Subsequently, regulatory approval for clinical trials is sought from Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In this research, preliminary animal trials have been conducted in collaboration with National Toxicology Centre, Pune, while some others are ongoing. Further, the team said, though this approach has been investigated for cartilage regeneration, it is not limited to it and can be extended for regeneration of other tissues.