B9Creations: Revolutionizing Osteoarthritis Research with Cutting-Edge Technology
For decades, researchers have struggled to find a cure for osteoarthritis, a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. However, Rapid City-based additive manufacturing solutions provider B9Creations is now partnering with a South Dakota Mines research team to find a solution to this debilitating condition.
Together, they are developing a “joint-on-a-chip” device – an evolution of “lab-on-a-chip” – that will allow researchers to study the complex interactions between cells in human joints. Using B9Creations’ 3D printing technology, the Mines research team has patented a breakthrough technology called CellWell, which, when combined with 3D-printed housing, enables the study of cartilage cells in a way that mimics their natural state. This unique combination of tools is offering new insights into the causes of osteoarthritis, which were impossible to gain before.
Scott Wood, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the NanoScience and Biomedical Engineering Department at Mines, and his students led the research and development of this groundbreaking technology, which they now utilize in their startup, CellField Technologies. According to Wood, osteoarthritis is not just a “wear and tear” disease, but rather an imbalance of the behavior of the cells in the joint.
CellWell technology uses a combination of nanotechnology, micropatterning, and mechanically-tunable thin-film composite materials to create an environment that allows cartilage cells to maintain their physiological nature without restricting their ability to be studied. Compared to competing technologies, CellWell can maintain the physiological cell shape and biomarker profile of chondrocytes for at least 28 days, four times as long as others.
The project has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and DRACO, a South Dakota nonprofit organization that advises startup companies and entrepreneurs. The team’s technology is aimed at small to mid-sized pharmaceutical companies, who are most focused on finding cures for osteoarthritis.
Wood’s work has been recognized with a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, which is the most prestigious award for early-career faculty. He is one of four faculty at Mines to receive this award since 2015 and the second from the NanoScience and Biomedical Engineering Department. Wood was also a finalist in the South Dakota Governor’s Giant Vision Competition.
With the development of CellWell technology, B9Creations and the Mines research team are paving the way for a cure for osteoarthritis. By studying cartilage cells in a way that mimics their natural state, researchers will be able to gain new insights into the behavior of the cells in the joint, which will be invaluable in developing new treatments for this debilitating disease.
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