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Can new ceramic materials combat Charcot foot?

Project summary

Can novel bioceramics provide an effective bone forming scaffold and lead to bone regeneration in Charcot osteoarthropathy?

Dr Petrova is searching for a way to treat the debilitating condition known as Charcot foot, where the bones in the foot can collapse. Her team are testing a new range of materials called bioceramics, to see if any of them can encourage healing and potentially be used as a treatment for Charcot foot in the future.

Background to research

People with diabetes that have damaged nerves can develop a debilitating bone condition called ‘Charcot foot’, where the bones and joints in the foot are weakened. This means that fractures don’t heal, joints can dislocate and the foot can collapse.  The only available treatment is a plaster cast to keep the foot immobilised, but healing often doesn’t happen properly, potentially leading to foot deformity and amputation. Charcot foot develops because bone-forming cells (called osteoblasts) don’t work to full capacity, while bone-breaking cells (called osteoclasts) work harder than usual. Recently, synthetic materials that can be substituted in the place of real bone (known as bioceramics) have been used to heal fractures in the backbone. Early research has suggested that this could work as a strategy for Charcot foot fractures as well: a bioceramic material could act as a scaffold to promote healing and prevent deformity.

Research aims

This project aims to grow osteoblasts and osteoclasts from blood samples taken from people with diabetes, with and without Charcot foot, in the lab. They’ll look for differences in the cells between people with and without Charcot foot, and try to find a material that can stimulate the activity of osteoblasts (to heal bone) and reduce the activity of osteoclasts (to prevent breakdown of bone). The team plan to test a range of potential substances known as bioceramics.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This research aims to find a new material that can be used to treat Charcot foot, by acting as a scaffold. The bioceramic material could encourage faster bone healing and strengthen the bones, to prevent deformity. If successful, this could have a huge impact on quality of life for people living with this debilitating condition, and reduce the number of amputations.

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