NUI Galway to Lead an EU Project to Develop ‘Bioartifical Organ’ for the Repair of Spinal Cord Injuries

Professor Abhay Pandit
Jun 05 2012 Posted: 12:31 IST

Scientists at NUI Galway hope to develop a ‘bioartificial organ’ for the repair of spinal cord injuries. The Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) at the University is leading an ambitious new €4.2 million European project, which someday may help people living with spinal cord injury.

The aim is to create a polymer conduit infused with the stem cells and other supportive factors that will help heal patients with spinal cord injury.

There are approximately 350,000 people living with spinal cord injury (SCI) in Europe today, and current treatment is highly limited. Most clinical effort is concentrated on rehabilitation and vast resources are directed to improving quality of life for these patients.

“Put simply, bioartificial organs are those which are grown in a lab”, explains Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of the NFB, a Science Foundation Ireland funded Strategic Research Cluster. “Around the world, researchers are trying to grow bladders, tissue or liver. With this particular project, we are looking to create a type of organ which would join-up a severed spine. This is frontier research, so we may be many years from success. However, our NeuroGraft consortium will bring together their synergistic expertise to develop cell seeded, functionalised bioartificial organs as valuable solutions towards spinal cord repair.”

The novelty of the NeuroGraft proposal is that the functionalised multichannel conduit will provide physical, chemotropic, and neuroprotective cues which mimic the natural 3D cellular and molecular regenerative environment of the neural space.

The NeuroGraft concept will be realised through the consortium, consisting of one academic and four industrial partners including groups from Vornia (Ireland), Stemmatters (Portugal), Biomatech SAS (France) and Obelis (Belgium).

Regulatory advice is incorporated at an early stage in the development cycle, to facilitate the translation of the novel bioartificial devices to the market in as short a timeframe as possible. The NeuroGraft consortium will validate the safety, efficacy and biodistribution of the functionalised bioartificial organs developed in a pre-clinical model of spinal cord under GLP conditions.

It is envisaged that these studies will facilitate progression to clinical trials of the technology (post project) and the development of a marketable product within six years of the completion of the NeuroGraft project.

The project, called the “Development of Functionalised Cell Seeded Bioartificial Organ for Transplantation in Nerve Repair”, is funded by an EU-FP7 grant.

Professor Pandit added: “We are delighted with the success of this proposal. This funding allows technology developed at NFB to be further developed so that it reaches the patients that have currently no such available treament. Over the years, we have established strong links with key industries and academic partners throughout Ireland, Europe and further afield that give us the capability to address tissue degenerative conditions or injuries through increasingly sophisticated biomaterial-based platforms, including those previously thought to be untreatable. This success is primarily due to the range of specialist expertise in biomaterials research that has been established under the Strategic Research Cluster programme funded by Science Foundation Ireland.”




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