Team:Greece United/Impact

Project Impact

Osteoarthritis right now is the most common musculoskeletal disorder affecting 300 million people worldwide. Based on the Global Osteoarthritis Patient Perception Survey patients search for pharmacological treatments to replace symptomatologic drugs which in many cases have adverse effects. At the same time, despite any advancements no disease-modifying drug is currently available.

There are many commercially available solutions for people with arthritis, but most of them do not solve the problem, they simply eliminate some of the symptoms. Also, they are expensive and painful as the administration of drugs is done through multiple injections, without offering a definitive solution. Another approach is surgery, which is highly invasive and adversely affects the body in various aspects. Some of the treatments for osteoarthritis today are:

 •   Increasing the concentration of platelets in the blood resulting in strengthening the body's normal response.
 •   "Blocking" factors that cause inflammation.
 •   "Placement of stem cells in the cartilage to regenerate it. This method can be applied only in early stages of osteoarthritis without definite results.
 •   Using healthy tissue from another part of the body and applying it to the problematic area. This method weakens other parts of the body and it requires joint replacement surgery.

Taking the scale of the problem into consideration, we arrive at the conclusion that a suffice treatment must be cheap, effective and easy to be applied. Our goal is to research towards an innovative and non-surgical way to cure Osteoarthritis, enabling the patients to avoid the severe symptoms of this musculoskeletal disease.

Our project aims to tackle osteoarthritis at its core, which is the inflammatory cycle, by inserting cells with a genetic circuit, which will drive the formation of exosomes and the inclusion of certain miRNAs inside them. The genetic circuit will be expressing an exosome membrane peptide fused with a CAP (Chondrocyte Affinity Peptide) tag and the miRNA-140 molecule. Therefore, the exosomes produced by the transfected cells will target specifically chondrocytes to release their cargo (miRNA-140) inside them. This miRNA will inhibit the expression of certain proteins (MMP-13, ADAMTS5) and promote the expression of others (Collagen-2). The modified cells would then be inserted into the affected joint to produce the therapeutic exosomes in the Osteoarthritic environment. The insertion would be achieved in a non-surgical way, by injecting a gel containing the modified cells in the joint.

The solution we propose could eventually achieve what no surgical treatment has achieved yet. An easy to use, non-invasive and most of all accessible by everyone solution to a problem that troubles a substantial amount of the population daily. The life quality of millions of people around the globe will be improved as Osteoarthritis is a disease that acts as a barrier to most everyday activities. Combining that with the app that we developed, besides the treatment, the patients (suffering or not from osteoarthritis) will be constantly evaluating their situation, making it possible to visit their doctor in time and thus avoiding the severe symptoms, such as pain and discomfort, that come along with the disease.