Researchers develop world's first
biodegradable joint implant
RegJointTM has undergone extensive clinical trials in Finland and
abroad and patients have reported positive results.
TUT has been the first in the world to develop a biodegradable joint implant called RegJointTM. It is used in the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The product has generated widespread interest all over the world.
The joint implant, which has been developed since the mid-1990s, is the result of collaboration between the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) , Conmed Linvatec Biomaterials, Scaffdex Ltd and a group of orthopaedic surgeons, among others, from Tampere University Hospital. Scaffdex Ltd is launching the product.
News of RegJointTM spread around the world in early 2012. Both the researchers and Scaffdex Ltd have received numerous enquiries about RegJointTM, not only from the media but also from healthcare and medical professionals and private individuals.
"We've been getting questions from the media, potential patients and medical professionals, such as doctors, but also from occupational therapeutists. Especially arthritic patients are eagerly awaiting an alternative to current surgical treatments. The interest and feedback have been positive and there's a clear need for this kind of product," says Professor Minna Kellomäki from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at TUT.
Publicity has helped raise awareness among surgeons and patients about RegJointTM and the product has already attracted a great deal of interest from potential distributors, i.e. companies that sell medical devices. The product received CE Mark approval in late 2011. Before this the product was not commercially available.
"The lack of surgeons knowledgeable about the procedure has limited the wide-scale adoption of RegJointTM, but Scaffdex is getting more surgeons and hospitals using the product and they are expecting positive growth figures this year," says Tuija Annala, Managing Director of Scaffdex Ltd.
New treatment for arthritic patients
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis destroy the normally smooth cartilage that lines the ends of bones. As cartilage regenerates poorly, the injuries are difficult to treat. Joint injury reduces mobility and causes pain.
The conventional surgical options involve permanent implants or the artificial induction of joint ossification between two bones. RegJointTM offers an alternative for conventional surgery and has several advantages over permanent implants. For example, the patient's own bone tissue remains intact during the operation. In addition, the implant makes the reconstruction of the joint more sustainable and cushions the area, relieving pain caused by friction between the bones.
The implant is used to repair injuries in the small joints of the fingers and toes. It is made of biodegradable polylactide copolymer and placed inside the joint capsule that surrounds the joint. The implant stimulates the body to produce connective tissue cells and is gradually replaced by the patient's own soft tissue. RegJointTM forms a neojoint between the bone ends and restores normal mobility.
The researchers have also received ideas for further development and invitations for cooperation from all over the world. Kellomäki says that the researchers and company representatives were surprised by the remarkable interest in the solutions for replacing larger joints, such as ankle, wrist, hip and knee joints.
"We'd been under the impression that existing prosthesis, such as hip prosthesis, are well-accepted and there's no need for new solutions, but it seems that many patients are willing to consider other options. However, we have to remember that larger joints are more demanding and not all concepts that work in small joints are applicable to larger ones. The interest in our product has certainly made us think about extending our research to larger joints and applied concepts!"
The Department of Biomedical Engineering is also part of BioMediTech, a joint institute between Tampere University of Technology and the University of Tampere.