Developing biomaterials to change the course of arthritis

Posted on Monday, June 24, 2019

Approximately 6 million Canadians live with arthritis, a group of debilitating diseases that causes the degradation of cartilage over time. Articular cartilage is essential as it covers the surfaces of bones in our joints, allowing the joints to move smoothly and painlessly. As a result of the destruction of cartilage, people with arthritis often suffer from considerable pain and decreased mobility — and there is currently no cure for the most common form of the disease.

To tackle this disease, Professor Jean-Philippe St-Pierre is working to create biomaterials that can be implanted into the body in order to stimulate the regeneration of the damaged tissue. A key aspect of these biomaterials is that they must be able to modulate the immune response associated with the disease. Specifically, St-Pierre has started to develop scaffolds for cartilage repair that modify the body’s response to inflammation. His aim is to identify the biological factors that could intervene in the body’s response, reducing cartilage degeneration, prompting cartilage regeneration and thus stopping the disease in its tracks.

The research conducted in St-Pierre’s lab has the potential to drastically improve the quality of life for millions suffering from arthritis. His technologies will also have significant economic benefits, as direct healthcare costs to the province of Ontario for residents living with osteoarthritis, for example, are approximately twice those of non-sufferers. Indirect costs associated with work productivity loss are also significant.

It is also important to note that while these materials are being developed to tackle arthritis, the possibilities for these immunomodulatory biomaterials are endless. Being able to control inflammation would allow for the prevention of damage before various diseases take hold, including those resulting from non-healing skin wounds or heart failure following heart attacks.

If you wish to contact Professor St-Pierre or learn more about his research, please visit his contact page.

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