1) Multifunctional nanosystems incorporating natural therapeutic agents for the treatment of arthritis (NANOARTHRITIS)
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic, degenerative, particularly aggressive and progressively evolving disease of articulating joints. The treatment followed nowadays is symptomatic and involves the administration of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). In cases where NSAID therapy is inadequate, intra-articular injectable corticosteroids are prescribed to treat symptoms, yet the short-term effect obliges the patients to undergo intra-articular injections repeatedly. Even in stem cell therapy, the patient initially receives supplementary treatment to reduce inflammation and pain.
The aim of this research proposal is to develop an innovative, injectable, medical device for knee osteoarthritis, based on the encapsulation of natural therapeutic agents in biocompatible and biodegradable, non-toxic matrices. The natural therapeutic agents have been selected on the basis of their properties against osteoarthritic inflammation as well as their safety profile. The nanosystems will belong to the class of “multifunctional” nanoparticles through which, different therapeutic effects (e.g. anti-inflammatory and antioxidant) will be simultaneously achieved, along with controlled transport and release in the affected area. Nanoparticles, and nanocarriers in general, are a novel weapon in the arsenal of disease fighting, including OA. The objectives of the project are to create biocompatible and biodegradable multifunctional nanosystems in order to:
- Increase the residence time of the active substance or a combination thereof in the joint
- Permit intra-articular application
- Achieve high loading and controlled release of the active substance(s)
- Reduce the amount of active substance administered
- Improve the security profile
- Protect the active substance(s) from photodegradation, oxidation, moisture
The cooperative scheme of the project consists of a biotechnological SME (Theracell) and two University Departments (NTUA and DUTH).
2) Development of nanomagnetic bioreactor for the continuous production of microalgae biomass and high added value products (BIONAMA)
The worldwide consumption of food supplements is constantly increasing, thus, leading to intense research and business activity focused on their production from natural raw materials. The objectives of BIONAMA are the design and development of a magnetic-Photo-Bioreactor (mPΒR) for the continuous production and harvesting of microalgae as well as optimization of processes for the recovery and modification of products with high added value from the microalgae biomass.
Specifically, the production of microalgae will be carried out using bio-nanotechnological techniques that enhance cells’ growth:
- Super-Paramagnetic Iron Oxide Nanoparticles (SPIONs) will be introduced into the cytoplasm of microalgae in order to provide magnetic properties. After magnetic transformation, the viability of the cells will be controlled and optimized.
- Magnetic modified microalgae (MAGMA) will be immobilized on the surface of magnetic discs and will be covered with a thin film (0.5-1mm) of water. The discs will be located in a chamber (mPBR) which provides specific growth conditions. The amount of water is minimized while harvesting is faster and efficient. The mPBR is a closed system which allows continuous control and adjustment of its operating conditions such as temperature, light intensity, nutrient composition and reduction of contaminants (useful for enhancing the production of specific molecules) and ensures continuous harvesting.
These important innovations will lead to an integrated process of continuous microalgae cultivation that improves productivity and reduces costs. Indeed, the biomass produced will be used to isolate – using supercritical CO2 – high added value natural products (carotenoids, astaxanthin, polyunsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides, etc.) that can be used as food supplements, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products.
To further reduce the overall production costs and the environmental impact, the water and CO2 derived from micro-algal biomass conversion will be recycled and used for de novo biomass generation. The project will be implemented by two small and medium enterprises (SME) AKMELOGI and Theracell and two research entities the Biotechnology Lab. and the Thermodynamics & Transport Phenomena Lab. of the School of Chemical Engineering of the NTUA.
The production of various high-value nutraceutical products using magnetic nanotechnology and supercritical extraction will provide a wide range of natural products and new environmentally friendly technologies.