The Project

In the last years, the world has assisted an increase in the number of debilitating conditions and severe pain caused by cartilage defects, being the scientific and clinical community aware of the major problem that our society is facing, both nationally and internationally. Thus, Portugal Central Region Commission have pointed Health and Well-being, and Biotechnology as differentiator domains; always under the scope of becoming an Innovation Leader. To contribute to this problem, we should look at it from two perspectives: the prevention and the treatment; 2 ways to improve the quality of life: 2bio.

Regarding treatment, tissue science and regenerative medicine have emerged as promising disciplines concerning tissue and/or organ repair and regeneration. In fact, choosing the right approach for tissue regeneration is a major concern for every researcher in this field. However, although there has been a huge amount of work aiming to regenerate cartilage, a tailored construct has not been achieved yet. Regarding prevention, it is known that there is a strong association between OA and obesity. Thus, developing exercise programs that are suitable for an elderly population is mandatory, and should be widespread to every institution hosting this high-risk population.

Accordingly, 2bio4cartilage has 5 main (and complementary) objectives:  (1) to provide students from different fields and degrees a problem-based learning approach for an enhanced action-learning process; (2) to develop a system with the ability to extrude 2 biomaterials with high reliability; (3) to optimize biomaterials and bioprocesses for the construction of hybrid and functional scaffolds (4) to create and disseminate an individual-based exercise program for reducing pain, increasing functional independence, and reducing cost for persons diagnosed with OA; and (5) to develop awareness of the society to the OA problem, developing actions with different actors in society.

We believe that the innovative nature of this project comes precisely from its multidisciplinary approach to the resolution of cartilage disorders, thus contributing to solving the existing problem (via the process engineering), but also in its prevention, a proactive approach to promoting the welfare and quality-of-life. For a clearly aging society, such as we face today, it is beneficial and salutary to propose active lifestyles, with a positive impact on the physical and mental health of the community. The effects of this project will have an impact in the territorial and regional influence radius, but may, given the ease of implementation of the proposed work methodology, be replicated at national and international level, without constraints or impediments of any kind. As stated in the tasks description, students will have a very important role in building this “new” knowledge, contributing with their ideas, based on the scientific knowledge they have of their area of ​​training, and a naturally own perspective of who is faced with a challenge and try to give the best answer. Teachers and scholarships will function as support elements and motivate the ideas that the student will reveal throughout the process.

2bio4cartilage has been divided into 7 tasks, developed in strict cooperation inter and intra task (as exposed in Figure below), and it comprises the participation of 3 High Education Institutions (HEI) and the Leiria Hospital Centre (LHC). Along with a proper and extensive characterization of the native tissue, a finite element method will evaluate and predict the response of the components to structural loads. This is highly mandatory, as OA should be considered as a global disease of the joint, and not only as a disease of the cartilage. It is aimed to develop a micro co-extrusion system consisting of two tanks and two spindles, allowing greater flexibility in the combination of materials and a higher precision regarding the inner and outer filament produced by this system. Led by IPC, with the support from IPLeiria and LHC, it is aimed an optimized design of new smart biomaterials and bioprocesses (as the latter has a big influence on the biomaterials properties). Students from Physiotherapy, Sport Sciences, and Active Aging will be challenged to create an individual-based exercise program. Led by IPS and having the support from IPL and LHC, will aim to develop a novel approach to reach the elderly population regarding their physical activity habits. Different types of exercise will be tested in order to evaluate the individual outcomes, and make a customized solution suitable.