About Associate Professor Hala Zreiqat
Millions of people worldwide suffer bone loss due to injury, infection, disease or abnormal skeletal development, and treatment frequently requires regeneration of new bone. Since each patient has only a limited amount of bone available for grafting, the demand for synthetic bone substitutes is high. Those currently available are far from optimal, but Associate Professor Hala Zreiqat has developed a unique ceramic material that acts as a scaffold on which the body can regenerate new bone, then gradually degrades as it is replaced by natural bone. "The bone substitute my team and I have developed resembles natural bone in terms of architecture, strength and porosity. So it is strong enough to withstand the loads that will be applied to it, and also contains pores that allow blood and nutrients to penetrate it. In this way it is designed to encourage normal bone growth, and to eventually be replaced by natural bone in the body. "The fact that it actually 'kick starts' the process of bone regeneration makes it far superior to other available materials. Our tests also show that it will not be rejected by the body. In addition, we can make as many implants as we want from this material, so availability will not be a problem. "This material has the potential to positively affect the quality of life of millions of people globally, so we are hoping to see it in use clinically within the next 10 years.
Hala Zreiqat is a National Health and Medical Research Fellow, Head of the Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Research Unit in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Sydney. Her group consists of multidisciplinary team of researchers including engineers, cell and molecular biologists and clinicians. She specializes in developing engineered biomaterials and scaffolds for skeletal tissue applications, and investigating their effect on in vitro and in vivo osteogenesis. Her team conducts research to gain greater understanding of bone/cartilage and endothelial cells biology when in contact with engineered biomaterials. She has over 80 peer-reviewed publications; 4 review papers; 12 book chapters; and over 120 abstracts in national and international meetings. She is regularly invited to give keynote and plenary presentations at major international and national conferences. She has organized / chaired a number of major international conferences/ symposia / workshops. She is the immediate past president of the Australian and New Zealand Orthopaedic research Society (2010-2012). Founder & Chair, University of Sydney International Tissue Engineering Network (2006-present). Amongst her awards are: Leopold Dintenfass Memorial Award, for Excellence in Research (2012); University of Sydney Engineering Deans Research Award (2009).
The Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research Laboratory is focused on developing biomaterials and scaffolds for treating bone/cartilage defects and in understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms the skeletal tissue interaction with biomaterials. Our group studies osteoarthritis, and the involvement of S100 proteins in skeletal disorders. We use in vitro studies utilizing primary human cells (osteoblasts, osteoclasts and endothelial cells) and more recently mesenchymal stem cells and in vivo animal models to investigate their biocompatibility and bioactivity for skeletal tissue regeneration.
The research in the Tissue Engineering laboratory is dedicated to:
- Developing novel synthetic scaffolds that combines high bioactivity and porous structure (for vascular and tissue invasion), biodegradability (allowing scaffold replacement), and mechanical strength (for load-bearing applications) for skeletal tissue regeneration. This will be a major biomedical and engineering advance, improving clinical outcomes and enabling a significantly wider application of restorative materials.
- Developing new biomaterial coatings for currently used orthopaedic and dental implants with improved osseous integration and improved strategies for long-term fixation of prostheses.
- Investigating the role played by S100A8 and S100A9 in cartilage degradation in osteoarthritis.
MAJOR FUNDING SOURCESCompetitive national/international funding bodies:
- National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
- Australian Research Council (ARC)
- Australian Orthopaedic Association (AOA)
- Rebecca Cooper Medical Research Foundation
Dr Zreiqat has research interests which include:
- Biomaterials: Studying the tissue interface, particularly improving osseous integration of prosthetic joints
- Aseptic lossening
- The signalling between osteoclasts and osteoblasts which affects the functionality of osteoblasts at the osteo-integrated interface of prostheses and skeleton
- Investigation into the modification of bone remodelling to the surface of synthetic materials by controlled alteration of surface chemistry and topography
- The study of bone remodelling responses to wear particles; Histiogenesis of bone cells (osteoblasts and osteoclasts).
- Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society
- Australian & New Zealand Bone Orthopaedic Research Society
- Co-founder Sydney Basic Bone/Orthopaedic Research Group
- European Calcified Tissue Society; Australian Society for Biomaterials
- European Society for Biomaterials Funding Sources: National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC)
- Australian Research Council (ARC)
- The Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (ANSTO)
- Australian Academy of Science.
- ARC Discovery project; Chief Investigators: H, Zreiqat, DR, Haynes, MV, Swain, G, Anderson 2005-2007 $555,000;
- NH&MRC Project Grant; Chief Investigators: H, Zreiqat, DR, Haynes 2004-2006 $470,000;
- Australian Academy of Science Fellowship. Chief Investigators: H, Zreiqat 2005 $11,000;
- R Douglas Wright Biomedical Career Development Award 2006-2010 H, Zreiqat $426,250/yr.