Beyonce bounces back thanks to new biomaterial

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The new biomaterial was used in the stifles of a showjumping thoroughbred named Beyonce to repair damage.
The new biomaterial was used in the stifles of a showjumping thoroughbred named Beyonce to repair damage.

A new biomaterial developed in Ireland has helped a thoroughbred filly with knee cartilage damage return to competition.

The material is a multi-layered three-dimensional porous scaffold called ChondroColl. It is composed of layers of collagen, hydroxyapatite and hyaluronic acid, which are materials native to joints.

ChondroColl is said to repair moving joints by stimulating host stem cells to regenerate both bone and cartilage, using the composition and architecture of the biomaterial to actively direct tissue formation.

It was developed by researchers from the Tissue Engineering Research Group at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (Amber) Centre, led by Professor Fergal O’Brien.

The findings of research into the material have been published in the Journal of Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine. It is the third research paper published in 2016 by the group which has shown the ability of the material to repair cartilage and joint defects.

This most recent study relates to a recent case in University College Dublin’s veterinary hospital and provided the first clinical use of the scaffold.

The patient was a 16-month-old thoroughbred filly named Beyonce who had large areas of damage in both left and right stifle (knee) joints as a result of a disease known as osteochondritis dissecans, in which cracks form in the joint cartilage and the underlying subchondral bone.

The outcome for such horses is often poor and may lead to euthanasia of the animal in severe cases.

David Stack and Florent David, from the veterinary hospital, removed the unstable osteochondral fragments. The multi-layered scaffolds were subsequently implanted, providing a template for new cartilage and bone to be formed.

The procedure was successful and, since surgery, Beyonce has resumed training. She will compete in showjumping events in the coming months.

Additional healing assessment research reported for ChondroColl has also received promising results. The first was from a short term pilot study, the findings of which were published in Acta Biomaterialia, and the second was a long term pre-clinical study, also carried out in conjunction with University College Dublin’s School of Veterinary Medicine, which showed the ability of the scaffold to heal defects at 12 months in goats. These findings were recently published in Biomaterials, the leading specialist journal in the field.

Professor O’Brien, who heads the RCSI’s Tissue Engineering Research Group and is also deputy director of Amber, said the researchers were delighted with the outcomes so far, particularly the results from the Beyonce case.

“Our hope for the future is this technology will benefit human patients,” he said.

A company called SurgaColl Technologies had been formed and work involving the first human cases was anticipated in coming months. The company’s aim was to bring the patented technology to market.

Dr Tanya Levingstone, first author on the studies and a research fellow at the RCSI, said the research had shown the potential of the biomaterial to heal different-sized injuries in patients.

The Amber centre is funded by the Science Foundation Ireland.

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