Biomechanics, Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

With an increase in obesity and an aging population, there is rising demand for the development of alternative treatment methodologies, such as the use of synthetic materials that can regenerate lost or diseased bone and cartilage.

Defects in the bone and cartilage can be due to osteoarthritis, fracture, cancer, infection, inflammation and congenital abnormalities. These defects are irreversible and profoundly impair bone and joint function. Osteoarthritis alone is one of the 10 most disabling diseases in developed countries. Over 1.6 million Australians are estimated to have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis,1 which costs the Australian health sector around A$1.18 billion.2

Bone regeneration is critical to a broad range of applications including non-union fracture, maxillofacial reconstruction, spinal fusion and repair of defects due to injury. Global failure rates of orthopaedic implants, mainly hip and knee replacements, are very high and synthetic materials currently in use are far from optimal.

Replacing extensive local bone defects presents a significant challenge. Developing resorbable, biodegradable, biocompatible and nanocomposite scaffolds for joint regeneration will be an important step in relieving patient discomfort and associated trauma. Scaffolds that promote the formation of healthy bone and cartilage will provide an important and improved option for orthopaedic and maxillofacial surgery, and globally, will positively impact the quality of life of millions of people.

1 Page 16, 2007-08 National health survey: summary of results report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, May 2009

2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2005a, Health system expenditure on disease and injury in Australia, 2000-01. 2nd edition, AIHW Cat. No. HWE 26, AIHW, Canberra.