New academic connections

Strengthening the global academic connections of AO Research Institute Davos and the AO Foundation with ORS and ICORS.

29 April 2014

ICORS council meeting at ORS 2014, New Orleans (US).

At the second official meeting of the ICORS (International Combined Orthopaedic Research Societies) council—which took place during the 60th Annual Meeting of the ORS (Orthopaedic Research Societies) in New Orleans (US) in March 2014—the AO Foundation was accepted as an Associate Scientific Member of ICORS. Associate Scientific Members have the same rights as members, with the exception of voting rights, and both AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) and the AO Foundation are proud to be the first non-society member of this global federation of societies. ARI director Prof Geoff Richards will be the official AO representative with Prof Mauro Alini as the deputy.

Richards, was actively involved in drawing up the founding ICORS charter together with past ORS president Ted Miclau (former ARI Medical Research Fellow) before the last ORS meeting, in Venice (IT) in October 2013, where the society was established. The first ICORS meeting will be in Xian, China in 2016, followed by Montreal, Canada in 2019.

The Constituent Societies of ICORS are: Australia-New Zealand Orthopaedic Research Society (ANZORS); British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS); Canadian Orthopaedic Research Society (CORS); Chinese Orthopaedic Research Society (CORS); European Orthopaedic Research Society (EORS); Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA); Korean Orthopaedic Research Society; Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS); Taiwan Orthopaedic Research Society.

The purposes and responsibilities of the ICORS are to:

  1. Promote orthopedic and musculoskeletal research, including the fields of engineering, biology, and clinical research.
  2. Allocate venues for tri-annual International Combined Orthopaedic Research Society (ICORS) Meeting.
  3. Monitor organizational progress and educational content and success of the tri-annual meetings.
  4. Organize a face-to-face meeting at each tri-annual meeting and each Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) Annual Meeting.
  5. Interface with the ORS and other member organizations to enhance international collaboration and programming, including the Annual ORS meeting.
  6. Support the development of new Orthopaedic Research organizations globally.

Prof Mauro Alini elected to the ORS International Committee

Prof Mauro Alini, Vice Director of the ARI has been elected to the new ORS International Committee as one of only four European members. This demonstrates the progress ARI has made in being internationally recognized on its academic merit. The ORS has always been an international society, with members from around the world who are engaged in musculoskeletal research. Approximately 25 % of the ORS membership is international, with members in more than 46 countries. The Board of Directors established the ORS International Committee in March 2014 in New Orleans. At this inaugural meeting, committee members discussed ways that the ORS can better serve our international members. A number of excellent suggestions were provided, many of which will be introduced to our international membership over the next few years.

ARI ORS Committee positions

Dr Martin Stoddart is currently serving a three year term on the ORS Basic Science Education Committee, (as the only European member) and was also a member of the 2014 NIRA (ORS New Investigator Recognition Awards) Committee. The ORS Basic Science and Education Committee (BSEC) develops and promotes educational content and programs to support, advance and position the ORS as the leading musculoskeletal research organization. Dr Sibylle Grad is a co-organizer of the Research Interest Group (RIG) named The Spine Research Community at the ORS. Prof Geoff Richards completed his term as the ORS Topic chair for the area Infection (2012–2013).

Translation of Cell-based Therapies Research Interest Group

ARI actively contributed to this year's ORS annual meeting in New Orleans, by hosting a research interest group addressing the challenges facing the translation of cell-based therapies in orthopedics. Organized by Dr Jennifer Bara and Dr Marietta Herrmann, and supported and introduced by Prof Geoff Richards, the meeting was very successful, attracting an international group of scientists, surgeons and industry representatives. The meeting included presentations from experienced clinicians James Richardson (RJAH Orthopaedic Hospital, UK) and George Muschler (Cleveland Clinic, US) together with scientific and industry expert, Anthony Ratcliffe (Synthasome, US). Translation proved to be a pivotal theme of the conference and so, together with the support of ORS, we hope to have the opportunity to host a similar event at next year’s meeting.

ORS—Spine Research Interest Group

The fourth meeting of the Spine Research Interest Group (RIG) was held prior to the ORS Annual Conference at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans (US) on March 14, 2014. The session was organized by Drs Fackson Mwale (Montreal, CA), Daisuke Sakai (Isehara, JP), Rita Kandel (Toronto, CA), Makarand Risbud (Philadelphia, US), James Iatridis (New York, US) and Sibylle Grad (ARI, Davos, CH). In order to evaluate the main topics of interest for the Spine Research Community, a survey had previously been conducted among spine researchers. A total of 54 scientists and clinicians participated in the survey, which revealed the nucleus pulposus (NP) cell phenotype, intervertebral disc (IVD) tissue engineering, and clinical trials as the key "hot topics" to address within the RIG. Furthermore, cell senescence was considered as another major theme of interest, as it relates to both the cellular phenotype and to tissue engineering applications. Hence we focused this year's RIG on two key subjects, namely "NP cell phenotype" and "cell senescence", while "clinical trials" will be discussed in a forthcoming RIG meeting.

With respect to the NP cell phenotype, open questions and controversies remain among the research community. Nevertheless, the panel and participants considered the definition of NP specific markers as important for various investigations, including stem/progenitor cell differentiation, cell ontogeny, and the identification and monitoring of NP cell sub-populations and their functions. The main challenges are the apparent species differences among NP markers and their changes during development, ageing and degeneration. Moreover, marker profiles are often based on gene expression levels, which do not necessarily correlate with the expression of the respective protein. It was concluded that a consensus of methodology and analysis modes needs to be found to allow phenotype studies to be compared between different institutions. Eventually, pooling of resources may be a way to overcome resource limitations.

The second theme of the session, cell senescence, was introduced by Dr Svenja Illien-Jünger (former ARI fellow) from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York (US). Senescence is an extreme response to cellular stress and has widely been observed in the IVD. The proportion of cells with signs of senescence increases with ageing and is pronounced in herniated discs. In vivo (mouse) and in vitro models have correlated senescence with progressive degeneration and activation of inflammatory pathways. There was an overall agreement that awareness of cell senescence is important for high quality studies. Still, open questions remain, such as the ultimate irreversibility of the senescent state and its correlation with inflammation.

Another survey is planned shortly that specifically addresses questions related to the NP cell phenotype. From the participants' feedback, opinions and experience a position paper is envisaged covering the current state of the art knowledge on the NP cells, while no general agreement will be pursued.

Workshop: Cell and Tissue Engineering for Annulus Fibrosus Repair: AO Foundation Collaborative Research Project

Organizers: Sibylle Grad, PhD (ARI), James C. Latridis, PhD (New York, US, ex-ARI post-doc)

Disc herniation is a major clinical problem and the most prominent pathological condition requiring spinal surgery. Though surgical discectomy provides favorable results in the majority of cases, there are conditions (eg, large disc protrusions with minimal disc degeneration and adolescent disc protrusions) where alternative treatment solutions involving annulus fibrosus closure and repair are desirable. Regardless of the surgical approach, lumbar spine surgery results are often unsatisfactory, and the economic burden to society is enormous. Novel strategies towards annular healing and biological restoration have the potential to improve surgical outcomes in patients with contained disc herniation but otherwise minor degenerative changes.

The workshop gave insight into an interdisciplinary consortium effort aimed at developing tissue-engineered implants to stimulate annulus fibrosus repair. The general concept of developing 3D materials with targeted biomechanical properties and activating them with a specific stem cell population and/or by the tailored release of active molecules was shown. The ultimate goal is to progress towards an intra-operative procedure which would prevent reherniation of repaired annulus fibrosus tissue and provide sustained pain relief for patients. In the past considerable advances have been made in the field of intervertebral disc regeneration and repair; nevertheless, comprehensive interdisciplinary approaches remain rare. To address this we assembled an interdisciplinary, international team of experts (Figure 1,Table 1) who are working collaboratively towards a clinical solution. The workshop gave a summary of the achievements during the first three years of this AO Foundation sponsored international consortium.

Ref: Guterl CC, See EY, Blanquer SB, Pandit A, Ferguson SJ, Benneker LM, Grijpma DW, Sakai D, Eglin D, Alini M, Iatridis JC, Grad S. Challenges and strategies in the repair of ruptured annulus fibrosus. Eur Cell Mater 25:1–21, 2013

Prof Geoff Richards presenting the AO Foundation at ORS 2014, New Orleans (US).

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