Barbara Chan, PhD | The University of Hong Kong; Patrick Shu-Hang YUNG FRCS; Chun Hoi Yan FRCS; Michael Tim-Yun Ong FRCS
Competition Sponsor: Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China
Osteoarthritis (OA) is among the most prevalent degenerative disorders in aged populations worldwide. It affects the entire joint with eroded cartilage, compromised osteochondral interface and abnormally remodelled bone, leading to severe pain, reduced motility and poor quality of life. Most existing treatments are symptom-relieving rather than disease-modifying. Surgical treatment such as marrow stimulation and biological attempts such as mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) injection resulted in formation of fibrocartilage, which is poor in quality and easily degenerated. To date, no method can effectively regenerate hyaline cartilage, restore the lost osteochondral integrity and sustain the structure and function of the repaired tissues. We believe that osteochondral tissue engineering, which addresses both cartilage and bone, is able to effectively modify OA. We have developed engineered osteochondral tissue (eOCT) with proper zonal organization using bone marrow (BM) MSCs. Implanting autologous eOCT in traumatic osteochondral defects in rabbits resulted in rapid and sustained hyaline cartilage formation, tide mark regeneration, bony integration, recovery in matrix composition and mechanical properties, comparable to autografting. These promising results prompt us to hypothesize that eOCT is able to effectively modify OA by investigating its effectiveness in a post-traumatic OA model in rabbits and comparing with existing options. Another challenge in MSCs-based treatment is the poor proliferation and senescence of BM-derived MSCs from aged patients. We therefore aim to evaluate the effectiveness of the less age-dependent infrapatellar-fat-pad (IFP)-derived MSCs from aged OA patients, in producing eOCT. This work develops novel therapeutics for OA, contributing to the grand challenge in healthy longevity.