(Toronto – June 28, 2010) Associate Scientist Dr. Rita Kandel and other Lunenfeld researchers have been awarded new funding from the United States Army toward the development of leading-edge ‘biological replacements’ for damaged joints.
The U.S. Army has provided over $1 million over three years to Dr. Kandel and colleagues including Drs. Marc Grynpas and Andras Nagy, to further their research in joint regeneration. The project is a multidisciplinary effort involving bioengineers, orthopaedic surgeons, veterinary surgeons, bone biologists and stem cell biologists, and includes researchers at the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, McMaster University and the Ontario Veterinary College.
Through this new funding, Dr. Kandel and her team will study the use of stem cells for biological joint replacements in animal models, before beginning clinical studies in humans within approximately five years.
“This is the first time in Canada that stem cells have been used for joint regeneration,” said Dr. Kandel. “We are very excited to begin this research endeavour, and anticipate that this will put us at the forefront of orthopaedic and regenerative medicine in North America.”
Joint replacements, such as artificial knees and hips, are increasingly common. They're a boon for people with failing joints, but the replacement parts aren't as durable as the originals. Usually made of metal and plastic that may be cemented to bone, they can deteriorate and come loose, and usually need replacing after 10 to 20 years.
But what if implants were made from materials that would actually allow bone and cartilage to grow into them and eventually replace them? This theory was the starting point for Dr. Kandel’s team at the Lunenfeld.
“The idea is to use a patient’s own cells and a biodegradable material to avoid the complications of current metal or plastic joint replacements,” said Dr. Kandel. “We anticipate that biological replacements will overcome many of the current limitations of traditional replacements.” The ‘bio replacements’ could be used to repair joint tissues damaged by disease or injury, or as ligament, intervertebral disc, or bone replacements.
The regeneration of musculoskeletal (bone and soft) tissue has been a particular research focus for Dr. Kandel since 2000.
The new funds are part of the U.S. Army’s goal to support research in tissue regeneration. The Army is interested in developing new approaches for the treatment of combat injuries and believe regenerative medicine can be used to generate bioreplacements for damaged joints, bones and tissues.
It is through these types of investments in scientific excellence that Lunenfeld researchers can truly excel. "Once again, philanthropic support of the Lunenfeld is validated,” said Dr. Jim Woodgett, the Lunenfeld’s Director of Research. “The success of Rita and her team in gaining this funding underscores the international competitiveness of our research programs, which are all supported by visionary donors. Dr. Kandel’s work is also a great example of how our leadership in stem cell biology is being applied to address clinical imperatives."
Dr. Kandel is a clinician-scientist and Associate Member of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute. She is Chief of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, and leads a staff of over 300 technical, scientific, and medical professionals who make up the department. She is also a professor at the University of Toronto, is cross-appointed to the Department of Surgery and Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, and is the Head of the Bioengineering of Skeletal Tissues Team.