Irish researcher aims to develop synthetic alternative to bone grafts

7 Sep 2012

Researcher Dr Declan Devine. Image by AIT

Dr Declan Devine, a researcher from Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), is heading to Harvard University’s Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies to continue his research into a synthetic alternative to bone grafts.

The idea of his research is to create a synthetic solution instead of bone grafting for people who have had surgery to remove cancerous tissue or for those who have had bone loss due to accidents or infections.

Devine, who is currently a senior researcher at AIT, is taking up a position at Harvard University’s Center for Advanced Orthopaedic Studies to continue pursuing his research. While at Harvard he will be based at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for two years. His stint there is being funded by the Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship.

According to AIT, Devine’s proposed treatment will mean creating a polymeric scaffold bond along with proteins that have been clinically proven to aid bone healing.

The scaffold that Devine will be developing will apparently be based on the natural structure of bone, with similar properties.

Bone transfer techniques are currently the most common type of intervention used by surgeons.

“As the proteins are trapped within the artificial bone, lower concentrations are needed to heal bones compared to doses currently used by clinicians,” explained Devine. “This will have the added advantage of reducing the overall cost of the surgical procedure compared to using current protein treatments.”

He said that if his study proves successful, it could be developed into a platform technology to treat a wide range of human ailments.

Devine graduated from polymer technology from AIT, where he subsequently undertook his PhD. He then went on to carry out an industry-led research post-doctoral project with Transitions Optical to develop its next-generation transitions lenses. This led to the granting of a US patent.

Following that he spent more than three years in Switzerland working for the AO Research Institute Davos, a non-profit organisation that specialises in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. is hosting Med Tech Focus, an initiative which over coming months will cover news, reports, interviews and videos, documenting Ireland’s leading role in one of the hottest sectors in technology.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic