The experimental materials consist of porous microspheres produced from calcium phosphates—a key component in bones—to be filled with stem cells extracted from the patient.
The targeted therapy could offer a quick, easy, and minimally invasive treatment that is injected into areas considered to be at high-risk of fracture to promote bone regeneration.
The funding grant, from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR i4i Challenge Award), also supports the development of a prototype delivery device to inject these stem cell loaded microspheres to the sites of interest.
In addition, project partners will investigate how well the materials stay in place once they have been injected inside the body.
Research leads, Dr. Ifty Ahmed and Professor Brigitte Scammell explained that the aim was to develop a preventive treatment option to address the growing issue of fractures occurring due to bone-thinning diseases, which is exacerbated due to the worldwide ageing population.
Osteoporosis-related conditions affect some three million Britons, and cost the NHS over £1.73bn each year, according to the National Osteoporotic Society.
Dr. Ahmed, from the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Nottingham, said, "We would advocate a national screening program, using a DEXA scan, which measures bone mineral density, to identify people at high risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
"If we could strengthen these peoples bone before they suffered from fractures, using a simple injection procedure, it would save people the pain and trauma of broken bones and associated consequences such as surgery and loss of independence."
The NIHR grant will also fund a Patient and Public Involvement study on the suitability of the technology, gauging the opinions and personal experience of people affected by osteoporosis as sufferers or caregivers, for example.
The project has already undertaken proof-of-concept work to test the feasibility of manufacturing the microsphere materials and lab work to ensure that stem cells attach and reside within these novel microsphere carriers.
The research is still at an early stage and the project team is working towards next phase pre-clinical trials.