Fergal O'Brien, AMBER

Tissue engineering project awarded €3m to revolutionise treatment of joint injuries

Prof Fergal O'Brien, AMBER

9 April 2018

Prof Fergal O’Brien from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Dept of Anatomy and AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science research centre, has been awarded a European Research Council Advanced Grant for research aiming to revolutionise the treatment of damaged articular joints such as the knee or ankle.

The award is one of just three ERC Advanced Grants being made to Irish Institutions this year. The funding, worth a total of €653 million, will give 269 of Europe’s senior researchers the opportunity to realise their most creative ideas and potentially produce results that will have a major impact on science, society and the economy.

Prof O’Brien, who is Head of the Tissue Engineering Research Group in the Dept of Anatomy at RCSI and Deputy Director of AMBER, has been awarded funding of €2,999,410 for a project ReCaP. Regeneration of Articular Cartilage using Advanced Biomaterials and Printing Technology.

ReCaP proposes a new approach to articular joint repair which will transform the way articular cartilage injuries are treated. The project will achieve this by combining advances in 3D printing and advanced manufacturing with new insights in stem cell and gene therapy to develop a platform biomaterial technology (a scaffold) capable of repairing both bone and cartilage.

A novel surgical procedure will then be applied to allow this scaffold to be anchored to the joint surface while encouraging the body’s own cells to infiltrate the material and repair the surrounding damaged tissue. Using this approach, the treatment will promote the restoration of even large regions of damaged tissue.

This research builds on the pioneering regenerative scaffolds developed in Prof O’Brien’s laboratory over the past decade which have already improved the quality of life for patients with orthopaedic injuries. It combines knowledge gained from the development of these scaffolds with new insights in scaffold-based gene delivery obtained from previous ERC-funded projects (CollRegen and miRaColl) together with new developments on 3D printing of regenerative biomaterials from AMBER.

Prof O’Brien said: “I am honoured to have been awarded this prestigious advanced research grant from the European Research Council. It builds on previous ERC-funded projects undertaken at my lab. Combining these insights with advances in 3D printing of biomaterials from our AMBER Centre and a new surgical approach for joint repair, offers new hope to patients suffering from damage to their articular joints.”

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science & Innovation, said: “The ERC’s Advanced Grant scheme has supported outstanding and established research leaders since 2007. It provides a great example of how EU funding can help expand the frontiers of scientific knowledge, providing the resources necessary to continue ground-breaking, high-risk projects, and ensure Europe’s global competitiveness.”

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