University Medical Centre Utrecht (UMCU)
With over a 1,100 beds and more than 11,000 employees, the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) is one of the largest academic centers in the Netherlands. Patient care and biomedical research are closely linked, which creates an environment where scientific advancements quickly move from bench to bedside. Research is focused on 7 key areas, called ‘spearheads’, that guide the choice of patient populations, and include Biomedical Imaging Sciences, Clinical Epidemiology and Regenerative medicine and Stem cells. The department of Orthopaedics has a leading role in the latter spearhead, with a strong clinical focus on spinal and knee surgery. For these foci, the department has a so-called supra-regional/ top-referent position, with the international status of ‘AO Spine reference center’. Taking as starting point patients with cartilage trauma, osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc degeneration and scoliotic deformity, the research group works on regeneration of bone, cartilage and intervertebral disc tissue, with a heavy focus on biomaterials, both as cells carriers and delivery tools. The research carried out in each subject may span the entire continuum from fundamental research to clinical trials. In addition to being the regional training centre of residents in orthopaedics and fellows in spine, knee- and pediatric orthopaedics, the department plays a leading role in various teaching programs to medical students, such as the SUMMA program for high-potential medical students with an interest in research, the PhD program ‘Regenerative Medicine’, the newly developed master program ‘Regenerative Medicine & Technology’ and the ‘Biofabrication’ course.
Dr Laura Creemers has a longstanding expertise in soft and hard connective tissue research. At the department of Orthopaedics of UMCU, her main research interests are intervertebral disc and cartilage degeneration and the development of local biomaterial-based therapeutic strategies for tissue regeneration. The biomaterials used range from natural to synthetic, and compounds delivered encompassed cells, small molecules, growth factors and siRNA. She has coordinated several large public-private partnerships Dutch programme on intradiscal and intra-articular delivery. Her group is familiar with a variety of test systems, including cell-based release assays, human IVD and cartilage tissue explant culture, rodent and rabbit models and large animal models of cartilage and intervertebral disc disease, up to human clinical studies in cartilage regeneration. Key is translation through connection, hence Dr Creemers is used to collaborating with formulation and biotech companies, orthopaedic and veterinary surgeons, biomechanical engineers, molecular biologists and pharmaceutical, biomaterial and imaging scientists.
Dr Jacqueline Alblas is PI in bone regeneration and in vitro models of cancer at the department of Orthopaedics, UMCU. She has a strong background in research of the innate immune system. Dr Alblas’ has extensive experience in local delivery of growth factors and plasmid DNA for bone regeneration and vascularisation, using natural and synthetic biomaterials as carriers. 3D Bioprinting of living cells was introduced and further developed under her supervision in the Orthopaedics lab in 2005, a technology gaining more and more attention in the past years.
Dr Joao Garcia is interested in RNAi-based drug delivery solutions for degenerative diseases including Osteoarthritis and Chronic Low Back Pain.