The UT and six partners aim to develop a radically new type of implant for the treatment of osteoarthritis of small joints in the hand. This novel polymer-based material does not require invasive surgery and enables the preservation of healthy bone and tissue, which makes it outperform currently available techniques. To achieve this ambitious goal, the project receives 3 million euros in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme over the next four years.
With an ageing population being one of the main causes for growing rates of osteoarthritis throughout Europe, the rise of smartphones and tablets has also increased the potential for finger joint arthritis in young adults. Improved bone regeneration solutions are urgently needed, as currently available implants are invasive, sacrifice large amounts of tissue and, most critically, do not restore the original mobility of the joint, which can lead to pain and discomfort in the patients’ everyday lives.
The new research consortium APRICOT has now set out to develop a novel, extremely thin and self-lubricating implant that is placed between the articulating surfaces of the affected joint. It is minimally invasive, bone conserving and suitable for patients of all ages. The APRICOT consortium comprises seven European partner institutions from the UK, Germany, Sweden and – with the contribution of the University of Twente – also the Netherlands.
Bart Verkerke, Jeroen Rouwkema and Edsko Hekman (all faculty of ET) are involved from the UT. “The implant acts as a kind of ‘pillow’ for the affected joint, resembling a dried apricot – hence the acronym APRICOT”, says Edsko. The pillow prevents the painful surfaces from hitting each other. “We look at the attachment to the joint and the instruments needed for the surgery”, says Edsko.
“Restoring the natural range of motion of finger joints, APRICOT goes beyond current implant solutions, helping patients return to their normal day-to-day lives”, said Professor Martin Browne from the University of Southampton, UK, coordinator of the project. “APRICOT has a significant societal impact potentially reducing the burden of pain for millions of osteoarthritis sufferers and relieving healthcare systems as a whole.”
The University of Twente brings talent development, education, scientific research, innovation and the simulation centre together under one roof in its Technical Medical Centre. This is unique in the Netherlands. APRICOT is an example of one of the many personalised innovations under development in the TechMed Centre to improve healthcare. By combining technological know-how with behavioural/social sciences a unique interaction between people and technology is created. In addition, there is intensive cooperation with a large network of top clinical hospitals, UMCs and the MedTech business community. The TechMed Centre works so that the healthcare in the Netherlands remains affordable and patient-oriented in the future and the competitive position in the field of economic activity in Europe is further strengthened.