Osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, is a serious disease characterised by the breakdown of cartilage in one or more joints; and it is also one of the ten leading causes of disability worldwide. The economic and societal costs of OA is particularly high resulting from functional injury, decreased quality of life, loss of productivity and increased healthcare resource utilization. This statement is expected to increase considerably in the future due to demographic changes.
OA current treatment therapies are restricted to provide relief reducing pain and discomfort. Replacement surgery is a sustainable alternative in restricted situations.
Stem cells have remarkable potential for treating OA and regenerating or replacing the defected tissue. Regenerative medicine applications in clinical articular cartilage repair, based on the suitable application of cells, biomaterials, and/or factors, represent a successful example of translational medicine. Tissue-engineering polymeric scaffolds need to offer structural support for cells to adhere, proliferate and differentiate, and also mechanical strength to preserve the new tissue in place. It is important to highlight that polymers have attractive chemical and biological properties.
Kefiran, an exopolysaccharide (EPS) produced by lactic acid bacteria (LAB), has received an increasing interest because of its GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status and its potential food and pharmaceutical application. This biopolymer is a water-soluble branched glucogalactan, showing rheological characteristics and several biological activities. The advantages of microbial kefiran obtained by industrial production is that it is avoided crop failure or the marine pollution but it requires high technology equipment, specific substrates, adequate power, among others. The output quality can be accurately controlled and priced.
In the OA context, a usual valued non-operative option used by physicians is viscosupplementation (intra-articular administration of hyaluronic acid, HA), approach compatible with the non-pharmacological and pharmacological treatment but also valid per se, once it supports the reestablishment of elasticity and viscous properties of the joint improving pain and restoring function in OA patients.
This study aims to provide a new viscosupplement kefiran product with several interesting properties, as alternative to current therapeutic products. In fact, this research is intended to develop a potential cartilage repair and regenerate treatment for OA with several interesting properties. By joining the biological, chemical, and engineering efforts we expect to be able to repair, restore, or regenerate the living tissues using this biopolymer, cells, and growth factors, alone or in their combination.