€7.5 million for osteoarthritis prevention
An international research consortium led by the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) has secured funding of €7.5 million through the EU’s current Horizon Europe program. The goal of the participating scientific and clinical specialists is to prevent the pain and cartilage degeneration associated with chronic osteoarthritis by reducing the underlying joint inflammation.
Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease, affecting around 16 percent of the world’s adult population. Chronic inflammation of the joints leads to cartilage breakdown, which – even in the early stages of the disease – causes constant pain and limitations in daily life. There is currently no treatment available that can prevent this inflammation or reverse cartilage damage.
“We want to intervene in the early and pre-onset stages of osteoarthritis,” explains Prof. Tobias Winkler, head of the Advanced Therapies in Compromised Patients Group at the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies. “The first study we are planning involves injecting mesenchymal stromal cells into the site of inflammation in patients. In a second study, we want to investigate the extent to which science-based movement therapy can help prevent osteoarthritis. These two studies form the core of the PROTO project.”
The power of placental cells
The regenerative cells that will be introduced into patients – in a method known as allogeneic cell therapy – are taken from the placenta of healthy donors and have already demonstrated initial success in regenerating muscle tissue. “The cells work by influencing the immune system at the local site,” says Tazio Maleitzke, deputy head of the research group.
Prof. Georg Duda, spokesperson for the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies, and Nicolas Brisson are working within the consortium on the development of a novel movement therapy. This therapy is intended to help patients following surgery for cruciate ligament ruptures (anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction) to correct improper movement patterns and thus prevent the development of post-traumatic osteoarthritis.
The studies will be accompanied by molecular, genetic, radiological, biomechanical, and biomarker tests.
The PROTO consortium is coordinated by Prof. Tobias Winkler and brings together Berlin partners from the BIH Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT), the Center for Musculoskeletal Surgery (CMSC), the Julius Wolff Institute (JWI), and the Institute of Medical and Human Genetics with international partners from Australia (Queensland University of Technology), Denmark (Nordic Bioscience), Finland (University of Oulu), the Netherlands (ReumaNederland), Israel (Pluri), Italy (Innovation Acta), Austria (Paracelsus Medical Private University Salzburg), Romania (Kineto tech Rehab), and the United States (Be The Partner & Analgesic Solutions).
The call for proposals from the EU’s Horizon Europe funding program was aimed at projects and research groups that deal with the topic of inflammation and that are trying to identify and intervene in the early stages of the body’s transition from health to disease. The grant agreement for the project, which forms the basis for the funding, is currently being prepared.