Irish researcher bags €150,000 to make 3D-printed knee implant

4 Sep 2017

Image: poylock19/Shutterstock

Irish researcher Prof Daniel Kelly has secured €150,000 in funding to develop a novel implant for treating cartilage damage.

As a recipient of one of the European Research Council’s Proof of Concept grants, Prof Daniel Kelly will now spend the next 18 months developing his 3D-printed project entitled ‘Anchor’.

Using the €150,000, Kelly will look to develop and commercialise his new medicinal product for cartilage regeneration, employing a postdoctoral researcher to help.

Those active in many sports would be familiar with cartilage damage as a result of injury, of which many cases occur in the knee joint. If left untreated, it can lead to difficulties such as osteoarthritis (OA).

OA can be a debilitating condition, with 80pc of those over the age of 60 experiencing limitations in movement and 25pc saying they cannot perform their major daily activities, according to the World Health Organisation.

Helping younger OA patients

Kelly’s product uses 3D-printed, biodegradable polymer components to make a scaffold, which acts as a template to guide the growth of new tissue by recruiting endogenous bone marrow derived from stem cells.

This, Kelly believes, gives it a competitive edge over similar implants, as standard ones are designed with a finite lifespan, making them unsuitable for younger patients with OA.

Kelly, a principal investigator at AMBER – the Trinity College Dublin materials science research centre – explained why it could be a major breakthrough for other conditions, such as arthritis.

“Our 3D-printed polymer posts will anchor the implant into the bone and will be porous to stimulate the migration of stem cells from the bone marrow into the body of the scaffold,” he said.

“While various scaffolds like this have been available for some time, they have had limited success, partly because scaffolds need to be anchored securely due to the high forces experienced within the joint. Our 3D-printed posts overcome this problem.”

Prior to Anchor, Kelly had worked on this technology in previous projects, such as the ERC-funded StemRepair project to develop a range of porous cartilage-derived scaffolds, and JointPrint.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic