Serge Savard is first patient to benefit from research results - Team headed by Professor Michael D. Buschmann of Ecole Polytechnique develops solution to knee-joint problems by leading research into novel biomaterials



    MONTREAL, April 26 /CNW Telbec/ - In 2003 Serge Savard, former star
defenceman and general manager of the Montréal Canadiens hockey club, was
scheduled for an operation on his left knee. Major surgery that would have
involved a complete joint replacement was avoided thanks to injection of a
novel biomaterial called CarGel(TM), which helped regenerate the cartilage
around Mr. Savard's knee. Behind this "miracle product" were the researchers
on a team led by Professor Michael D. Buschmann, one of the first in the world
to develop a biomaterial capable of promoting articular cartilage healing.
Professor Buschmann is Director of Ecole Polytechnique's Groupe de recherche
en science et technologies biomédicales (Biomedical Science and Technologies
Research Group - GRSTB) and holder of the new NSERC/BioSyntech Industrial
Research Chair in Hybrid Biomaterials for Innovative Regenerative
Technologies. Inaugurated today at Ecole Polytechnique, the Chair is working
to develop a family of biomaterials with the ability to stimulate growth and
regeneration of joint tissue.

    Chair to develop "living" materials

    A hybrid biomaterial is one composed of a polymer and a bioactive
substance that together possess properties not present in their component
parts. The Chair research team uses bioactive substances either taken from
patients' bodies (e.g., blood or cells) or created from proteins,
polynucleotides or other substances. This attenuates the risk of rejection.
For example, CarGel(TM) - which is produced by the Chair's industrial partner,
BioSyntech Inc. - links chitosan (derived from the shells of crustaceans) with
the patient's blood. When injected into joint tissue, the gel forms an
adhesive structure within damaged cartilage that acts as a "scaffold" from
which the body's cells can generate new cartilage.
    The NSERC/BioSyntech Industrial Research Chair in Hybrid Biomaterials for
Innovative Regenerative Technologies, with a budget of $400,000 annually over
five years, will enable Professor Buschmann's team to develop an entire series
of hybrid biomaterials with ultra-high-performance properties, along with
optical and electron microscopy techniques for structural analysis purposes.
    "We are seeking to deepen our understanding of the composition and
structure of biomaterials, as well as their biomechanical and biological
properties - with the ultimate goal of perfecting applications for hybrid
biomaterials that will include regeneration of tissues and organs damaged by
disease," Professor Buschmann announced.

    Remarkable breakthrough in the field of joint surgery

    Diseases that result in irremediable tissue lesions in joints - e.g.,
arthritis and arthrosis - currently account for some 15% of hospitalizations
in developed countries; one Canadian in five will be affected by arthritis
over the next 20 years. Because of the aging of the population, that
percentage will increase sharply, in turn causing a severe public health
problem in years to come. In the presence of tissue lesions, the potential for
natural repair or regeneration of damaged cartilage is very limited.
Currently, advancement of disease often necessitates complete joint
replacement using a prosthesis - an invasive procedure that is painful for
patients, and which sometimes offers only a temporary solution: many
prostheses require replacement after 10 years or so. According to the Medical
Post, the number of full knee and hip arthroplasties in Canada has increased
nearly 40% in seven years, and physicians conduct more than 45,000 such
surgeries each year. The products that will result from research conducted by
the Chair team therefore represent a highly promising solution that should
eventually reduce dependence on joint replacement surgeries.
    Dr. Nicolas Duval, the surgeon who performed the operation on Mr. Savard
using CarGel(TM), said enthusiastically: "The work led by Professor Buschmann
introduces the concept of regeneration using our bodies' own tissue. It means
surgeons will be able to regenerate cartilage before irreversible damage is
done. And it means, potentially, greater patient mobility, lower morbidity
rates due to major surgeries, and lower costs to the health system and to
society in general."

    A model partnership

    The Chair in Hybrid Biomaterials came into being thanks to the Natural
Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and BioSyntech,
which each provided half of the operating budget.
    The links between Polytechnique and BioSyntech Inc. are particularly
close and fruitful. The Laval firm, founded by a former Polytechnique
professor, Amine Selmani, specializes in injectable biomaterials for tissue
repair and therapeutic delivery. Under a technology transfer agreement,
BioSyntech benefits from the discoveries and patents of Professor Buschmann's
team, with a view to commercialization. The firm will participate actively in
scientific collaborations with the Chair, supply the basic polymers and steer
research work toward the most useful areas of research and exploitation.
    "Our technology breakthroughs will be strengthened with the creation of
the Chair," said Claude LeDuc, President and Chief Executive Officer of
BioSyntech, adding: "We are also proud to be helping create a critical mass of
researchers and highly qualified personnel, who are needed by firms such as
ours."

    An innovative training environment

    At the crossroads of biology, chemistry, physics, surgery and
engineering, the Industrial Research Chair in Hybrid Biomaterials for
Innovative Regenerative Technologies provides a multidisciplinary research
environment and allows researchers access to the state-of-the-art equipment of
the GRSTB.
    "In five years, we expect to train some 15 graduate students and about as
many undergraduates, in areas of research as diversified as chemistry, polymer
physics and tissue microscopy, as well as biomechanics of hybrid biomaterials
and in vivo study of their biological functions," concluded Professor
Buschmann. "Our Chair will contribute to advancements in the fields of
biomedical engineering research and nano-biotechnologies at Ecole
Polytechnique. On the strength of its expertise in these fields, in fall 2008
Polytechnique will inaugurate Québec's first and only bachelor's program in
biomedical engineering.

    About Ecole Polytechnique

    Founded in 1873, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal is one of Canada's
leading engineering institutions in terms of both teaching and research. It is
the largest engineering school in Québec as far as its student population and
the scope of its research activities are concerned. Ecole Polytechnique
provides instruction in 11 engineering specialties and is responsible for more
than one-quarter of university research in engineering in Québec. The school
has 230 professors and nearly 6,000 students. Its operating budget is
$85 million, in addition to a $68 million research and infrastructure fund,
which includes grants and contracts worth $38 million. Polytechnique is
affiliated with Université de Montréal.

    About BioSyntech

    BioSyntech is a biotechnology firm specializing in the discovery,
development and manufacturing of innovative, cost-effective and
physician-friendly biotherapeutic thermogels for regenerative medicine and
therapeutic delivery. BioSyntech's Quality Management System is registered to
the ISO 9001:2000 standards. For additional information, visit
www.biosyntech.com.

    About NSERC

    NSERC is a federal agency whose role is to make investments in people,
discovery and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency invests
in people by supporting some 23,000 university students and postdoctoral
fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more
than 11,000 university professors every year and helps make innovation happen
by encouraging about 1,300 Canadian companies to invest in university research
and training. Over the past 10 years, NSERC has invested $6 billion in basic
research, university-industry projects, and the training of Canada's next
generation of scientists and engineers. Website: www.crsng.gc.ca.




For further information:

For further information: Chantal Cantin, Communications and Recruitment
Office, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, (514) 340-4711, ext. 4970, Cell:
(514) 916-2399, chantal.cantin@polymtl.ca; Photos of Chair members and their
work available via the following site: http://www.polymtl.ca/tissue/


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