Arthritis is one of this country’s most common illnesses, with nearly one in six Canadians suffering from the disease. There’s currently no known cure – something researchers in Canada’s capital are working to change.
Jean-Philippe St-Pierre, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering, and researchers at the St-Pierre Biomaterials Lab are exploring how biomedical engineering can ease arthritic pain. His team is working on creating regenerative tissue to replace damaged cartilage.
“Arthritis is the most prevalent chronic disease without a cure in Canada,” says St-Pierre. “It is really rewarding working in a field where we can have an impact on the quality of life of individuals.”
In biomedical engineering, one major promising area of research is growing new tissue. Natural polymers such as those found in algae and synthetic polymers that make up objects in our everyday life are being used to build tissues in a dish.
“We modify the base material and build structures that encourage tissue regeneration in the lab,” says St-Pierre. “You need the right mix of chemical and mechanical properties to grow tissue. For example, if the tissue is soft, your material has to mimic those conditions from the human body.”
Biomaterials can also be used to prevent further deterioration in the body. When these materials are placed in a patient, they send signals to the surrounding cells to delay or even stop the damage.
“This research can work early in the disease,” says St-Pierre. “For example, if someone has suffered a sports injury that is determined to have a higher likelihood of developing into arthritis because of the injury. If so, we could eventually use these materials to prevent any further damage.”
To keep up with the latest developments in healthcare and technology, visit the Faculty of Engineering’s website at engineering.uOttawa.ca.
Reducing wait times
Quality healthcare starts well before a patient starts to receive treatment. Professor Daniel Amyot from the uOttawa Faculty of Engineering is working with a diverse team of software engineers, doctors and managers to find a cure for long wait times in hospitals.
Using a combination of data mining and artificial intelligence called process mining, researchers look at data logs from Ottawa hospitals such as the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to see how patients are transferred from one hospital unit or practitioner to another and then compare the process with expectations – all with the goal of reducing the amount of time patients spend waiting for treatment.
“We want to create technology that can help doctors with the hundreds of decisions they have to make each day,” says Amyot. “We’re moving towards more evidence-based medicine, at the process level.”