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New Cross Border Bone Graft Research at Queen’s

A novel bone graft substitute which will aim to help repair bone is being developed as part of a new cross border biomedical research project involving Queen’s University PhD students.

Bone grafts are second only to blood transfusions on the list of transplanted materials worldwide. Postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers will be working on this project in Belfast and Dublin. The funders Science Foundation Ireland are an agency run by a board appointed by the Irish Minister For Trade and Employment.

Science Foundation Ireland have awarded funding for the research to Dr Glenn Dickson, Head of the Tissue Engineering Research Team, Orthopaedic Surgery, Queen’s University and Dr Fergal O Brien, Head of Tissue Engineering Research Group, Royal College of Surgeon’s in Ireland to help develop the graft.

Speaking about the new research project Doctor Dickson, who is based in the School of Medicine and Dentistry said: “Every year up to four million bone replacement procedures are performed worldwide which require the use of a bone graft or bone graft substitute.

“Our objective is that ideally the product would be one of the first fully functional, biocompatible, mechanically competent, bone promoting graft substitutes.”

The joint project will aim to help repair damaged or diseased bone, by evaluating the physical characteristics and the ability of the implant graft to facilitate actual bone growth.

Such bone scaffolds should be compatible with the patient, be mechanically sound and promote new bone formation while preventing infection or rejection.

At present there are two forms of treatment namely an ‘autograft’ where the bone is taken from the patient’s own body and replanted and an ‘allograft’ where the option is to use bone from a donor. An ideal tissue engineered bone graft substitute would reduce the need for allografts or autografts.

Doctor Dickson continued: “It is exciting that Science Foundation Ireland are actively supporting North South scientific collaboration in this area.

“There is a global interest in regenerative medicine for the production of diverse replacement tissues and organs. An entire industry is being developed in this area with spin out company formation promoting economic and employment opportunities. Bone substitute materials are a major aspect of this.

“It is important that Ireland North and South pool research resources ultimately for patient benefit and to support economic competitiveness in the global arena of regenerative medicine.”

The new project is the latest stage in a continuing North South partnership. Both Dr Dickson and Dr O’ Brien have participated in the delivery of an All Ireland Masters Degree in Biomedical Engineering which has been running for a decade.

North South collaborations in the area have been built up over a number of years and promoted through organisations such as The Northern Ireland BioMedical Engineering Society (Dr Dickson is a Past President) and the BioEngineering Section of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland. A number of joint cross border scientific meetings have been organised by these organisations over many years.

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
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