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Mechanical engineering researcher gets $1.3M grant to study preventing post-traumatic osteoarthritis

Aug. 17, 2016

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $1.3 million grant to Diane Wagner, an associate professor of mechanical engineering with the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI, to evaluate a new method of strengthening damaged cartilage, preventing it from progressing to a debilitating form of arthritis.

diane wagner

Diane Wagner in her lab. | PHOTO COURTESY OF IUPUI

It's hoped the study will lead to a noninvasive treatment for those who have experienced injuries to cartilage in their joints as a result of auto accidents, sports injuries or other trauma.

"The basic idea is pretty simple," Wagner said. "We want to strengthen cartilage for people who have experienced an injury and therefore are more prone to cartilage wear and likely to develop post-traumatic osteoarthritis in the future."

Currently, there are few effective treatments available for post-traumatic osteoarthritis, which affects more than 5 million people in the United States.

Wagner will study a photo-initiated crosslinking treatment in which a combination of a chemical solution and a particular wavelength of light is used to add bonds between collagen fibers within cartilage, strengthening the tissue.

This process will target only damaged cartilage while leaving healthy cartilage untouched.

"We wouldn't be altering other tissues or cartilage that is still healthy," Wagner said. "We would just be trying to strengthen cartilage that has been damaged and is more susceptible to developing arthritis."

Because both the chemical solution and light can be delivered through arthroscopic surgery, successful completion of this project may give health care providers a new, noninvasive treatment for the prevention of post-traumatic osteoarthritis.

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