The 20th eCM Conference focused on the latest findings on cartilage and disc repair and regeneration

The 20th edition of the European Cells and Materials (eCM) Conference took place at the Davos Congress Center from June 15 to 18, 2022, with a record number of scientists in attendance from universities, research institutes, clinics, and industry. 181 international participants joined this high-level conference to meet and discuss the latest results of applied research and clinical studies related to the subject of this year's meeting: cartilage and disc repair and regeneration. AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) hosts the annual conference under ARI Director Geoff Richard's leadership, and is organized by Martin Stoddart, Sibylle Grad, and Zhen Li of ARI's Regenerative Orthopaedics Focus Area team.

Injuries as well as wear and tear of the joints and spine are ubiquitous, yet their treatment is extremely difficult. In particular, damaged cartilage and intervertebral disc tissues present significant challenges to patients and physicians. The potential for self-healing is low and the available treatments are often unsatisfactory. However, new developments in cellular and molecular biology, biomechanics, and biomaterials research offer hope for the future. For example, therapies using stem cells, gene therapies, and the administration of new biological materials have already proven their effectiveness in preclinical studies. In addition, mathematical models and artificial intelligence can improve diagnosis and enable individualized treatment.

Twenty renowned experts presented their latest findings on these subjects at this year's eCM Conference, with topics including an investigation into the causes of joint and back pain; supporting the body's capacity for regeneration; and targeted administration of novel drugs and materials. Forty-four student presentations were delivered during the conference, and the 2020, 2021, and 2022 recipients of the AO Foundation's esteemed Berton Rahn Research Award were honored at the conference, since no meeting could be held in 2020 and 2021. The winners—Prof Stephen Ferguson (2022), Prof Jos Malda (2021), and Prof Ling Qin (2020)—presented their work to those in attendance.

Throughout the four-day-long conference, scientists engaged in a lively multi-disciplinary exchange. The conference's focused format—a single session (no parallel meetings) featuring auditorium presentations, poster sessions, and group hikes—is designed to encourage in-depth discourse between established experts and young researchers alike related to basic, translational, and clinical research. These exchanges promise approaches that will one day prevent or alleviate the discomfort of patients suffering from joint or intervertebral disc diseases.

The open exchange present at the eCM Conference is rooted in the mission of the eCM Journal, one of the world's first open-source scientific journals (founded in 1999), published by ARI. The interdisciplinary eCM Journal publishes preclinical research that has clinical relevance in the musculoskeletal field—orthopedics, trauma, maxillofacial (including dental), and spine. The eCM Conference, which first took place in 1999 in Davos, founded the journal's model for the open sharing of knowledge by providing a live forum for active dialogue between scientists and clinicians to increase mutual understanding that serves to improve patient outcomes.

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