Targeted Cartilage Regeneration: TargetCaRe

Mobility is very important for human well-being, but the worldwide burden of chronic diseases of the musculoskeletal system, in particular osteoarthritis (OA) and chronic low back pain caused by intervertebral disc disease (IVD), impair seriously this condition in many people worldwide. The cause of these pathologies is the degeneration of the cartilaginous tissue of the intervertebral disc and joint. The search for a solution to these diseases has incited considerable scientific efforts to finding regenerative treatments mainly focused in the use of growth factors and stem cells that would cure or at least slow their progression. However, none of these new techniques have achieved to the clinic as a routine treatment yet. Complicating issues are the need for high loads of active factors, adverse effects on non-involved neighbouring and distant tissues, the rapid loss of exogenously applied stem cells and the tight regulations on advanced medicinal products. 

The objective of the TargetCaRe project aims both to prevent further degradation of a damaged joint or IVD, as well as to activate the body’s own regenerative capacity to heal damaged and degenerated tissues in the joint and the IVD. This will be carried out by a consortium, consisting of world-leading scientists, and at same time will train a group of researchers skilled in a variety of innovative technologies that will enable the development of regenerative treatments that will go beyond the current state-of-art and actually make clinical application of regenerative medicine for joint and intervertebral disc diseases feasible and successful. To this end, targeting strategies tailored to both the pathology and the tissues involved will be employed. Regeneration of diseased tissues will be achieved by targeting strategies developed to ensure that the nanocarriers containing therapeutical molecules by a controlled release will get to the damaged tissue in the joint or IVD after injection, to fully exploit the body’s own capacity for regeneration by attracting local stem cells or inhibit degeneration. Targeting will be achieved by A] injection with synthetic or natural hydrogels loaded with the nanocarriers or B] coupling diseased tissue-specific antibodies and specific hyaluronic acid moieties to the nanocarriers. High tech imaging methods will be used to monitor the delivery of the nanocarriers, the distribution of the delivered compounds at the tissue level, and the effect of the therapeutic molecules on the damaged joint or IVD tissue by detecting biological markers of regeneration.

Major objectives: 1] To establish a network of scientists skilled in the use of smart nanocarriers, unique approach of targeting by disease specific molecules and application of innovative imaging tools. 2] To develop strategies exclusively targeting diseased tissues with controlled doses of bio-actives, circumventing the disadvantages of the current shotgun approaches in regenerative medicine.