From all over the world to Davos

A chance to take valuable experiences and expertise back home 

“The medical sector is a field where Colombia needs new perspectives from abroad. The ARI fellowship is a great way to achieve that.”

Maria Antonia Gomez, ARI fellow

And although there have only been very few fellows from Colombia so far, Maria considers herself lucky to have worked alongside Julián Salavarrieta and Rodrigo Pesantez. The two, she says, were instrumental in guiding her towards the AO principles of fracture management.

As a fellow, Maria joined the ARI's Regenerative Orthopaedics Team and Focus Area Bone Biology. There, she contributed to a research project to develop a gene-based method to control fracture-related inflammation. "The inflammatory phase is the first stage of fracture healing and is a normal and necessary part of the process", Maria explains. "However, if the inflammation persists, it can have negative effects on the eventual bone structure."

Under the supervision of Dr Keith Thompson, Maria and her team (including Dr William Lackington and involving a collaboration with Prof Fergal O'Brien and Dr Arlyng Gonzalez-Vazquez at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland) investigated collagen-based scaffolds. Like bridges between the two parts of a broken bone, these structures act as templates along which new tissue can form. Collagen scaffolds are a well-established treatment method in the world of fracture healing—however, in this case, the scaffolds were gene-activated: they served as a delivery platform for nanoparticles composed of DNA. This enabled the production of IL-1RA, an anti-inflammatory protein that inhibits the activity of Interleukin-1, which drives inflammation. By the time Maria's fellowship came to an end, the method had been successfully tested in vitro. The results have since been published in the journal Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology.

Apart from this professional success, Maria also likes to remember her stay in Davos for personal reasons. "Everyone was always so friendly and helpful," she says, adding that she now considers family many of the friends she made. "We were all in a similar situation, but at the same time we were very different because we came from all over the world. That experience has enriched me personally to a great extent."