Osteoarthritis is one of the fastest growing health problems around the world with over 8 million people living with the condition in the UK. It can begin at any age in adulthood and people can have severe joint pain and stiffness, for example, in their hips and knees. They will also have great difficulty in their everyday activities, such as walking, climbing stairs or even standing.
The answer has been, for over fifty years, to replace the damaged joints with artificial joints, which involves major surgery. Patients rarely get a full range of movement back and, importantly, the artificial joints don’t last forever. For young and/or very active people, this affects them for the rest of their lives.
At the Tissue Engineering Centre we are approaching the problem in a very different way; a way which avoids major surgery. Instead of replacing a joint, we are looking for innovative treatments to regenerate a patient’s damaged joint using stem cells from their own body. We want to treat people with early Osteoarthritis so that their joint, once treated, will have a better chance of lasting longer.
We have set up a team of researchers from across the UK* who have specialist knowledge and expertise in orthopaedics, rheumatology, tissue engineering, stem cells and biomaterials. Working together, this team of surgeons, doctors and scientists use a unique method of research called Translational Research where the latest treatments from the laboratory are translated to patients. Through careful monitoring with the patients themselves, the team are able to develop further laboratory work. This method is then referred to as ‘Reverse Translational Research’.
Ultimately, we want these new treatments to be cost-effective and easy to administer to people living with osteoarthritis, without the need for major surgery and having to visit specialist centres.
* University of Cambridge, University of Aberdeen, University of Keele/Oswestry The Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, University of Newcastle and University of York.