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Developing New Treatments

Submitted by jctink on Mon, 08/22/2016 - 3:26pm


Findings suggest that 40% of people over 70 years of age suffer from Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, 80% of whom have some limitation of movement and 25% are unable to perform major daily life activities. While OA increases with aging, for many other reasons (active lifestyles, injuries, obesity, etc.) its incidence and prevalence are increasing. Researchers in the McCaig Institute are working to provide novel, safe and effective treatments for people with osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other bone and joint conditions.

The Joint Transplantation Program changes lives

While on vacation in Kelowna, Eltoff Abdalla was accidently pushed into the shallow end of a swimming pool.She landed on her foot, but the impact shattered the end of her tibia and damaged the cartilage of her left knee. The injury affected not just her mobility, but also her confidence. “I loved to cycle and run – and then I found myself nervous to do almost anything.”

In 2006, Eltoff received Alberta’s first fresh biological joint transplant as part of research done by the McCaig Institute’s Joint Transplantation Program. Within a year she was back to cycling, running and going to the gym. Ten years later, she is still doing great. “Having the procedure gave me freedom,” says Abdalla. “It gave me my life back.”


Developing safer stem cell therapies

A few years ago, a Japanese group showed that mature adult skin cells could be genetically reprogrammed into embryonic stem cell-like cells. This advancement was significant since patient-specific pluripotent stem cells could be created without the destruction of an embryo. However this reprogramming technique relied on the use of cancerous agents and was highly inefficient, requiring one million adult cells to generate one stem cell. In May 2012, Derrick Rancourt, PhD and Roman Krawetz, PhD reported an innovative technique to generate millions of reprogrammed stem cells, without the use of cancerous agents. Using suspension bioreactors, stem cells can now be generated safely at the numbers needed for treating patients.

This discovery was significant and has brought us one step closer to realizing the dream of creating new clinical therapies for patients.


Keeping Joints Lubricated

Tannin Schmidt, PhD discovered the lubricating properties of synovial fluid are altered after joint injury, but they recover over time. His team is investigating whether this temporary loss in lubrication is responsible for later development of osteoarthritis, and he is developing ways to maintain joint lubrication in order to potentially avoid disease onset altogether.

How inflammation affects fracture healing

Orthopaedic trauma surgeon Prism Schneider spends half her time performing surgery and treating orthopaedic trauma cases, and the other half doing research on how inflammation affects fracture healing and an individual’s risk of developing blood clots or excessive bleeding. Some of this work is done in a lab, using a pre-clinical model to study joint injury and inflammation. But most of her research involves leading clinical trials to find better medications and surgical treatments to control inflammation and optimize healing after injury. “My goal at the end of the day is just to provide the best possible care for patients, so that we can achieve uncomplicated fracture healing.”