A Materials Approach to Treating Degenerative Diseases
Many incurable diseases are caused by the malfunction or loss of specific proteins in the body. Conventional approaches to treating some of these diseases rely on molecular biology tools to correct dysfunctions or supplement missing proteins. These approaches are often costly—a situation that tends to hamper the rapid development or testing of new compounds.
Dr. Xavier Banquy, Canada Research Chair in Bio-inspired Materials, is addressing this problem by using materials engineering tools to develop biomaterials that can perform biological functions. The idea is to use them as replacement parts in dysfunctional proteins.
Banquy’s research shows that biomaterials that mimic functional proteins can restore properties that have been lost during disease development. For example, properly designed biomaterials can restore lubrication in joints for people with osteoarthritis, or restore nerve conduction (the ability to send impulses to muscles) in the spinal cords of multiple sclerosis sufferers.
Research by Banquy and his team will lead to more effective treatments for currently incurable diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and osteoarthritis. It will also provide new tools to develop protein surrogates that can act as cost-effective replacement parts for the human body.