The University of Bradford’s School of Engineering, Design and Technology and Advanced Gel Technology Ltd (AGT), a University spin out company, are developing a cartilage repair gel to improve the quality of life for people suffering with medical joint trouble such as osteoarthritis.
The £135K project, funded by AGT and partly by Yorkshire Forward began three years ago, and whilst the gel is not at clinical trial stage yet, the University and AGT are confident that it can help hundreds of people.
Unlike most other parts of the body, cartilage cannot be repaired easily meaning that most joint sufferers need to undergo major invasive surgery to replace the joint.
Joint replacements last around 10-15 years and revising them is difficult, which means surgery is generally only recommended for age groups where the replacement will last them the rest of their life.
Treating patients who need surgery with the alternative hydrogel therapy that the University and AGT are working on would mean a much less invasive procedure, which could hold off joint replacement surgery for at least five years.
Currently the University and AGT are looking at joints which have suffered trauma from a car accident or a sport injury where the cartilage has been torn or has a hole in it. The idea behind the repair gel is that they would drill a bigger hole into the tear and fill it with the gel to substitute the original cartilage and stop the pain caused by the bones rubbing against each other.
Dr Pete Twigg, Lead Researcher of the Cartilage Repair Project at the University of Bradford, said: “The potential for improved quality of life is huge. The number of people suffering from cartilage problems is increasing every year.
“Total joint replacement is very successful, but may not be appropriate for younger, more active people. They are often encouraged to put off surgery until the pain is disabling, but a conservative replacement treatment could relieve pain and restore function at a much earlier stage.”
The hydrogel treatment would be a very simple procedure and eventually could be something carried out as day surgery, where a needle could be inserted through the skin into the affected area.
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