EU-funded biomaterials projects
of EU-funded projects include:
tissue-engineered living bone equivalent
aims to develop living-tissue-engineered bone-substitute materials that
can replace load-bearing and non-load-bearing bone. The idea is to produce
a hybrid implant consisting of a biocompatible, biodegradable polymer
scaffold seeded with the patient's own bone cells. Once inside the body,
the implant should favour new bone growth and integrate into the site
of the lesion, as the scaffold gradually degrades.
are two companies and three universities/research centres. They have
developed promising polymers for scaffold building. They have optimised
animal bone-cell cultures and found conditions that favour cell attachment
and proliferation (they have started to do the same with human cells).
They have proved in animal experiments that seeded porous polymer scaffolds
do promote bone tissue formation. The next step will be to implant bone-marrow
cells from large animals into clinically relevant bone defects.
the ultimate product may be somewhat more expensive than existing systems,
a shorter hospital stay, a high biocompatibility and a high long-term
success rate will make it competitive.
of a biodegradable scaffold for dermo-epidermal skin grafts
skin grafts project set out to treat problematic skin wounds
by implanting a biodegradable scaffold at the wound site seeded with
the patient's own skin cells. The idea was to combine dermal cells (cells
of the lower skin layer) and epidermal cells (cells of the upper skin
layer) in a scaffold made of a derivative of a molecule naturally present
in the skin. The cells form new skin that integrates into the surrounding
tissue as the scaffold is biodegraded.
are two companies and four universities/research centres. They have
produced and patented two scaffolds, a membrane for reconstructing the
upper skin layer and a fibrous structure for rebuilding the lower layer.
Techniques taken from the textile industry are used to make this dermal
scaffold. Both systems are currently sold in Italy.
derived from a skin biopsy of about 1 cm² are expanded in culture,
then seeded onto the scaffolds. Skin reconstruction is in two steps
- first the dermis, then the epidermis. Over 1,000 patients have received
this treatment in clinical trials, and there have been outstanding results:
saved limbs, burns that heal with less scarring than usual. The next
aim is to produce a scaffold enabling delivery of both dermal and epidermal
cells in a single step.
field traditionally dominated by the US, these European partners have
created a product superior to existing ones. The only comparable systems
use donor cells rather than the patient's. The project partners have
shown that skin cells from donors cannot survive and integrate, they
can only stimulate healing by providing growth factors.
Current plans to duplicate in other countries the centre that produces
the scaffolds may lead to the creation of up to 250 jobs.
and testing of membranes for biohybrid systems
aim of the membranes
for biohybrid systems project is to make bio-hybrid organs in
which living kidney or liver cells, immobilised on membranes, perform
their normal physiological functions. A first step is to produce the
membranes that make such organs possible. The partners are a large company,
an SME and four universities/ research centres.
or replacement of kidneys, there is to date no biohybrid organ. There
have been encouraging attempts by other researchers to make a biohybrid
liver, but the cells used in these systems die off quickly. This is
why the present project concentrates on developing membranes that help
keep the cells alive, attached, and functional. This means paying special
attention to the membrane surface and its interactions with cells and
blood constituents. One idea is to bind to the membranes molecules that
favour cell viability and function, or prevent binding of unwanted proteins
(this is called 'functionalising' the membranes).
have patented a hollow-fibre design for immobilising kidney cells. They
are filing patents for two particularly promising membranes. One of
these is blood-compatible on one side and tissue-compatible on the other
(an indispensable feature, since in a biohybrid organ, the cells immobilised
on one side must be in contact with the patient's blood, on the other).
The second can be rapidly functionalised for use in different environments.
A new challenge is to obtain organ cells in sufficient number. The partners
expect it to take about five more years to produce a biohybrid liver.
photopolymerisation models based on medical imaging: a development improving
the accuracy of surgery.
of the now completed Phidias
project was to produce highly accurate models enabling surgeons to visualise,
prepare and practice complex surgery. The idea was to produce the models
by stereolithography, a rapid prototyping technique in which a computer-controlled
laser 'prints' successive slices of the model in a photopolymer liquid
that hardens where the laser light hits.
were an SME, two large companies, and a university. They developed a
fully integrated process chain - creating some steps and improving others.
They enhanced the accuracy of spiral computerised tomography (a medical
imaging technique) and the quality of image processing, created a software
link between the computerised tomography data and the printer, increased
printing speed, and developed a non-toxic photopolymer that can be selectively
coloured to highlight lesions.
models cannot be implanted, but they can function as templates before
surgery to make implants that will fit exactly into place. Surgeons
also use the models to plan and rehearse complex surgery and to visualise
the results. When several surgical teams must work together, the models
can help them co-ordinate their interventions.
trials performed by 25 surgeons on 48 patients, the models were judged
useful to essential in 94% of cases. They were found to influence important
factors such as surgical team composition, the patient's position for
surgery, the operation sequence, and even the decision to operate or
not. They may improve the survival rate of patients operated for jaw
tumours because, with accurate models of the lesion and surrounding
tissue, surgeons dare remove more tissue.
has spawned a new project, PISA
(Personalised Implants and Surgical Aids), which has already yielded
a new product: drilling guides for dental surgery that fit exactly on