European TRIANKLE project to develop 3D bioprinted implants for ankle joint

Tendonitis and osteoarthritis are medical conditions that can impair joint movement and lead to the breakdown of joint cartilage respectively. Every year, the cost of treating these conditions in Europe exceeds more than €200 billion. TRIANKLE, which is a new research consortium composed of 12 partners including Eindhoven University of Technology researcher Jasper Foolen, has received EU funding of €5.9 million to develop personalized bio-implants for injured tendons or cartilage. TRIANKLE allows aims to reduce recovery time, increase tendon and cartilage functionality recovery, and boost competitiveness of the EU biomedical sector. Today, the grant agreement for the TRIANKLE project funded by the European Commission has been signed.

The TRIANKLE consortium – made up of 12 European organisations, will develop 3D bioprinted personalized scaffolds for tissue regeneration of ankle joints. This ambitious research project in regenerative medicine comes with an overall budget of €5.9M and will be developed over 4 years, starting January 2021. The consortium aims to create innovative personalized collagen- and gelatine-based implants manufactured with 3D technology for patients with tendinopathies such as Achilles tendon partial ruptures and cartilage injuries.

A common and expensive health problem

Tendinopathies and osteoarthritis (OA) are extremely common, especially among the elderly, women, and professional athletes. In addition to quality of life, both conditions substantially impact healthcare systems of economies worldwide. For example, OA costs €76.5 billion in EU every year, while tendinopathies have an estimated expenditure above €140 billion.

The project aims to fill the critical gap created by the lack of effective treatments currently available. None of the existing surgical or non-surgical alternatives have provided a successful long-term solution for patients, and often the treated tissues do not recover their complete strength and functionality. In this context, TRIANKLE’s objectives will be to reduce recovery time by 50% and, at the same time, increase the functionality ratios of the injured tissue by 10%-15%.

Partnership: From advanced research to potential market

TRIANKLE consortium consists of a team of 12 organisations, including Eindhoven University of Technology, covering the complete spectrum from advanced research to the market. Its main strength relies on the combination of highly skilled partners with proven track records in biomaterials for regenerative applications and 3D bioprinting technology with partners that are also devoted to social engagement and dissemination of results to healthcare professionals and, ultimately, potential patients.

A total of 12 organisations from 5 different countries (Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) make up the TRIANKLE consortium. The partnership includes one industry partner (Naturin Viscofan GmbH), three SMEs (CELLINK AB, Cambridge Nanomaterials Technology, and Gradocell SL), two research centres (Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB and Acondicionamiento Tarrasense Associacion), three universities (University of Stuttgart, Universidad del País Vasco, and Eindhoven University of Technology), two non-profit organisations (Futbol Club Barcelona Asociacion FCB and Osteoarthritis Foundation International OAFI), and one healthcare institution (Fundacio Clinic per a la Recerca Biomedica). The TRIANKLE project coordinator is Naturin Viscofan GmbH.

TU/e’s role in TRIANKLE

As part of TRIANKLE, TU/e researcher Jasper Foolen from Orthopaedic Biomechanics in the Department of Biomedical Engineering will focus on the design and building of dedicated bioreactors to test the tendon and cartilage scaffolds.

“To screen the different materials, we will first use standardized mechanical tests to check on their resilience. After this, we will select the most promising scaffolds using extensive mechanobiological analysis,” says Foolen. “This is significant collaboration involving numerous partners with differing areas of expertise. I’m very much looking forward to working on the TRIANKLE project.”

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