New bone repair technique sets filly on path to a brighter future

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Annagh Haven's jaw was repaired thanks to cutting-edge technology pioneered in Ireland. Pictured at the Oristown, County Meath, property were Annagh Haven lives are, from left, Ireland's Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Damien English, Professor Fergal O'Brien, who is deputy director of AMBER, and Laurence Mulvany, who owns the filly.
Annagh Haven’s jaw was repaired thanks to cutting-edge technology pioneered in Ireland. Pictured at the Oristown, County Meath, property were Annagh Haven lives are, from left, Ireland’s Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English, Professor Fergal O’Brien, who is deputy director of AMBER, and Laurence Mulvany, who owns the filly.

A new bone repair technology has helped return an injured Irish racehorse to health.

The two-year-old filly, Annagh Haven, underwent jaw reconstruction using the technique and has since won or been placed in six of her races.

The bone repair technology is called HydroxyColl. It consists of collagen and hydroxyapatite, components native to bone, formed into a three-dimensional porous “scaffold” which acts as a bone graft substitute. Bone cells and blood vessels cling to the scaffold, allowing for new tissue regeneration.

The first clinical use of the technique was on Annagh Haven. She had a large swelling in her jaw caused by a complex aneurysmal cyst. As a result, the bone in the filly’s jaw was at risk of fracture and she was unable to chew adequately. The outcome is generally poor for such cysts and euthanasia is often necessary.

The procedure was carried out by Dr Florent David at University College Dublin’s Veterinary Hospital, who removed the cyst and implanted sheets of the scaffold.

The procedure enabled repair of the bone tissue followed by restoration of normal bone shape and function.

That led to Annagh Haven’s successful return to racing.

The new technique was announced today by AMBER, a centre which provides a base for researchers investigating the use of materials in science and industry. AMBER is an acronym for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research.

The centre, funded by Ireland’s Science Foundation, is based at Trinity College Dublin.

The patented bone repair technology was developed by AMBER researchers within the Tissue Engineering Research Group at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). The team was led by Professor Fergal O’Brien, who is the deputy director of AMBER.

The system will be brought to market by an RCSI spin out company, SurgaColl Technologies.

Regulatory approval for human use is forecast in the coming months and implantation in patients suffering from large bone defects is planned this year.

The announcement on the technique coincided with the first anniversary of the opening of the AMBER centre.

Ireland’s Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English, described the bone technology as exciting. He congratulated O’Brien and his team for their work.

“Material science underpins a wide range of market opportunities that have the greatest potential to deliver economic return through enterprise development and employment growth in Ireland,” he said.

AMBER currently works with 21 industry partners, with 31 targeted projects on its books.

The bone repair technology case study has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine.

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