European consortium to develop innovative implants by electrospinning

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A diagram of the electrospinning process showing the onset of instability (Credit: Joanna Gatford, The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research)

A European transnational consortium led by Maastricht University (UM), Maastricht, The Netherlands, is to spend the next four years developing innovative bone implants, intended to become an alternative for repeat surgeries, prolonged medication use and donor tissue implementation following complex bone fractures.

Kicking off in Paris, France, on 6 July, the Biofabrication of Orthopaedics in a New Era (BONE) partnership also aims to provide the participating regions with a significant economic boost.

Research has demonstrated that residents of Northwestern Europe are more likely to develop degenerative bone disorders than their other European counterparts. As a result, this region has the highest number of bone fractures and bone defects within Europe, which has evident social and economic consequences.

In the field of regenerative medicine, researchers have been working to create innovative bone implants that can enhance recovery times and reduce health care costs.

At the basis of these smart bone implants lies a technology known as electrospinning, which, similar to traditional dry spinning, draws polymer threads to create fibres. This technique, however, draws the charged polymers using electrical force.

This method enables researchers to create implants that have the potential to help the regeneration of healthy bone tissue. ‘We want to improve the surface properties of the bone implants in a way that ensures the success of the regeneration process,’ says Lorenzo Moroni, professor of Biofabrication for Regenerative Medicine at UM. ‘That is why we are combining electrospinning with other technologies. An added advantage is that this will help us expand the library of suitable materials for smart bone implants.’

In addition to UM, this international partnership consists of the universities of Leuven, Belgium, Lille, France, Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, Germany, Medicen Paris Region, a biomedical cluster in Paris, France. It will also involve technology companies The Electrospinning Company, NKT Photonics and Spraybase.

The technological hub of Project BONE lies in the Maastricht region (Brightlands Campus) and at Aachen, with the preclinical tests to be carried out in Leuven and Lille.

The project will create fifteen jobs, two new products (improved technology and smart bone implants) and foster close collaboration between the multiple economic regions in Northwestern Europe, thereby helping them to expand their innovative capacity.

BONE is financed by the Interreg NWE programme, a cross-border partnership that is financially supported by the European Fund for Regional Development.

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