Funding success for two IBEC projects

Two IBEC-led tissue regeneration projects have been selected for funding by the EU’s ERA-NET EuroNanoMed initiative.

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Josep Planell and George Altankov will coordinate the projects, which will focus on solutions for pseudarthrosis and degenerative skeletal disorders respectively.  This is the third call for projects under the initiative, and of the 41 proposals received by EuroNanoMed, eight were selected to receive funding.

‘Angiogenic nanostructured materials for non-consolidating bone fractures’ (nAngioFrac), coordinated by Josep Planell’s Bio/non-bio Interactions for Regenerative Medicine group at IBEC, brings together four other academic, clinical and industrial partners from France and Poland. It aims to develop tailored biodegradable and bioactive nanostructured scaffolds to ensure the correct release of calcium, a major player in angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels), to promote tissue repair in pseudarthrosis. This condition results from inadequate healing after a bone fracture and sometimes during development, and results in a ‘false joint’.

One important strategy in tissue regeneration is developing ‘smart’ scaffolds able to stimulate progenitor cells to colonize them and to activate their natural behavior, resulting in the regeneration of new healthy living tissue. Currently, one of the main limitations of present scaffolds is their lack of vascularisation to support the growth and viability of these regenerated tissues. The nAngioFrac consortium will design, develop and characterize fully inorganic nanostructured porous CaP glass ceramics and hybrid (PLA/CaP glass) nanofibre scaffolds, materials able to trigger angiogenesis and induce vascularization due to their release of calcium ions, and study their biological response in vitro and in vivo.

The second project, ‘Nanostructured Gel for Cellular Therapy of Degenerative Skeletal Disorders’ (STRUCTGEL), will be coordinated by Molecular Dynamics at Cell-biomaterial Interface group leader George Altankov and involves partners from Germany, France and Turkey. With the aim of tackling degenerative skeletal tissue disorders such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, the consortium will combine high performance materials and advanced nanotechnology to design an implant with unique properties which can influence site-specific tissue regeneration.

The project ‘toolbox’ consists of slices of biocompatible hydrogel with controlled mechanical properties and degradation time being combined with nanofibres to provide spatial orientation to cells. Different techniques will be used to incorporate biologically-active molecules and to assemble the 3D gel/nanofibre construct after seeding with mesenchymal stem cells. Single slices and fully assembled bone and cartilage constructs will be propagated in vitro to demonstrate biocompatibility and bioactivity, and feasibility studies will be carried out in vivo.

Under the ERA-NET scheme, projects are evaluated by a centralized selection committee, but each partner of the project is funded by its own country of origin. Therefore, although the EuroNanoMed projects have already been selected, before starting, these projects will have still to go through ad-hoc national calls.