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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Growing a new joint in a human back


Imagine the ability to grow your own joint replacement in your back. Most Europeans will suffer from arthritis or back pain which keeps them off work. 103 Million Europeans need an artificial replacement joint to regain their quality of life. These replacements are made of solid titanium or steel and have a finite life span so that revision surgery is mandatory. In 2004, we were the first group worldwide to grow a new mandible in the back of a cancer patient to replace his resected mandible. No other group has been able to perform a similar procedure yet.

We plan to proceed and to grow an individually shaped Joint Like Organ (JLO) in the Latissimus muscle of patients with arthritis which can later be transplanted to replace the original joint. We will base this pioneering step on our experiences with the mandible procedure. The goal is to use the patient as the bioreactor to prevent the common problems of engineering tissue in vitro in the laboratory. The same technique could be used to grow more complex organs in the future when we conclusively prove that the patient can be his own bioreactor. Developing a JLO clearly lies outside most thematic priorities for FP 6 but seems related to priority1 "Life Sciences, Genomics and Biotechnology for health". However our application falls outside the two major fields of this thematic priority: Combating major diseases and Advanced genomics and applications for health.

Our application concerns arthritic diseases which were not regarded a major disease in priority 1. Over 40 of the over 65s suffer from this affliction and without it their general health status would be similar to that of under 65s. This disease therefore deserves our attention. Our application does not involve genomics and it does not conform to biotechnology. Our vision is to develop a procedure where patients cultivate their own organs being their own bioreactor a move away from biotechnology towards tissue cultivation.

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