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University of Twente and ReumaNederland take next step towards injectable hydrogel for knee osteoarthritis

The Developmental BioEngineering group of the University of Twente is working on a promising breakthrough in the treatment of osteoarthritis, the most common form of rheumatoid arthritis. The research group is continuing its ground breaking work on an injectable therapy for osteoarthritis in the knee, and is progressing towards first tests in patients in the coming years. . The group intends to further improve the therapy by including stem cells in the injectable hydrogel to further facilitate cartilage regrowth. ReumaNederland has awarded €600,000 to the Developmental BioEngineering research group of the UT, and designated it a Research Centre of Excellence. 

ReumaNederland hopes that by joining forces with Research Centres of Excellence that nationally and internationally are frontrunners in osteoarthritis reseach will bring about a breakthrough in its treatment. Osteoarthritis affects almost 1.4 million people in the Netherlands. Treatments to date have been limited to lifestyle advice, pain management, exercise therapy, and in advanced cases a prosthesis. A total of seven university research groups in the Netherlands are to be designated Osteoarthritis Research Centres of Excellence, and ReumaNederland is awarding a total of €3.8 million in research funding to these Centres.

Osteoarthritis treatment needs breakthroughs

Many patients with osteoarthritis suffer daily from pain and limitations in movement due to damaged joints. A recent survey performed by ReumaNederland under patients with osteoarthritis has confirmed that, despite treatment, 97% experience the disease as a hindrance in daily life, with pain, reduced mobility and fatigue limiting daily activities such as walking, getting out of bed, going up and down stairs, or opening packages as the most common complaints. This has a profound effect on their daily working and social lives. 

Professor Marcel Karperien, head of the Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Twente: “The injectable hydrogel therapy is already under development, and the results so far have been very encouraging. We want to use the next five years to further improve our hydrogel technology for treatment of osteoarthrits, but we also intent to begin with tests in patients. Thanks to this support from ReumaNederland we expect to start the first tests in ten patient within one or two years.”  

Lodewijk Ridderbos, general director of ReumaNederland: “We need osteoarthritis treatments that make a real difference to people’s complaints and limitations. An injectable therapy to remedy cartilage defects would be an important step in that direction, so we are looking forward to seeing the results of Professor Marcel Karperien’s research work. The treatment of osteoarthritis needs breakthroughs in scientific research that could help to reduce pain and improve mobility in osteoarthritis patients.” 


Arthrosis is a disorder of the cartilaginous and bony tissues of a joint, in which the cartilage in the joint becomes thin and brittle. It can sometimes disappear completely, leaving the underlying bone vulnerable to damage or malformation. The loss of cartilage, the rubbing of bone on bone, and the resulting bony protuberances cause pain and stiffness in the joints. In the Netherlands, almost 1.4 million people suffer from arthrosis in one or more joints; this makes it the most commonly occurring form of rheumatoid arthritis.

Read more about the breakthroughs that arthrosis Research Centres of Excellence are working on.

drs. M.M.J. van Hillegersberg - Hofmans (Martine)
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