Science for mobility

The modern field of biomaterials began 80-70 years ago when clinicians used materials for the first time in the treatment of patients. Since then, the application of materials has made an enormous impact on the treatment of trauma, injuries and diseases. Scientists and engineers started to design prosthesis using inert materials in order to replace parts of the human body: for example, metallic hip replacement surgeries with the intent to restore ambulation of people. The subsequent revolution in molecular biology highlighted for the first time role of DNA and cell surface receptors, deepening our knowledge of human diseases. The union of materials and biology opened the door to the field of bioactive materials: materials that interact actively with the human body. This new class of materials was combined with cells and biological cues in order to recreate a conducive environment for the regeneration of tissues. Our research is based on this foundation: we design and develop biomaterials that can have a positive outcome on people’s mobility via the restoration of cartilage, fundamental for the normal movement of the joint, in patients affected by osteoarthritis and lower back pain. In particular, my project involves polymeric microcapsules designed to be injected into the joint, delivering an on-demand dosage of drugs. One of our projects focuses on the delivery of anti-inflammatory drugs over a long period of time, avoiding multiple intra-articular injections of drugs. A second project we are working on targets the regeneration of cartilage and involves the differentiation of stem cells into chondrocytes.