FARO DE VIGO has published the following article about the thesis of our colleague Estefanía.

A researcher in the New Materials group designs medical devices with shark tooth bioceramics and molecules obtained from other fish by-products.

The sea holds benefits for our health even in those products that we discard. The New Materials group of the University of Vigo has been studying for years the potential of bioceramics obtained from shark teeth for different medical applications. And, within this line, the researcher Estefanía López Senra has designed and characterized scaffolds and biomolecules of marine origin for the regeneration of bone and cartilage. The aim of these projects, which began with a European initiative, is to “find a way out” of discards and by-products of commercial species, to which researchers give “a second life” with a high added value. “In my case, I use shark heads, which are of no interest and are only used to make fishmeal,” the expert said. With a degree in Biology, López Senra completed a master’s degree in Health Sciences and specialised in Forensic Anthropology at the Complutense University of Madrid. She returned to Vigo in 2014 to continue her training in biomaterials and biomedical technologies and began to collaborate in the groups projects where she has developed her PhD thesis. The scaffolds that she has designed and manufactured are porous structures made of alginate sponge to which bioceramics extracted from shark teeth are incorporated. And they act as a “temporary support” for a biomolecule of marine origin supplied by the Waste Recycling and Recovery group (Reval) of the Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas-CSIC. “They already have a process designed to extract the chondroitin sulfate biomolecule from by-products such as ray cartilage, and the fin or head of dogfish and other shark species. We have characterized it physically and biologically because it comes from a new source and we have studied its chondrogenic and bone tissue regenerative potential. We have also analyzed how it combines with sponge and bioceramics and the factors that influence the biomolecule to use this material and develop a regenerative activity”, explains López Senra. The application of these biomaterials of marine origin offers “good results” and is an alternative to synthetic materials and those of bovine and porcine origin, with the addition that they take advantage of discards and by-products generated by fishing activity, thus contributing to their sustainability. They also have advantages over autografts, since those include a second operation on the patient to remove tissue from another part of the body. The thesis is directed by Professor of Applied Physics Julia Serra and Dr. Miriam Álvarez and its author spent two periods in the 3B group at the University of Minho, located in Braga that maintains a close collaboration with the New Materials group, as well as at the Institute of Biomedical Research of A Coruña (Inibic). “I was in the rheumatism group, which works a lot on cartilage degeneration and related diseases such as osteoarthritis. There I carried out studies to evaluate the biomolecule with cell lines and also in samples from patients with osteoarthritis. The results were good”, points out López Senra, who will defend her PhD tesis in few weeks.

Resources from the Atlantic coast

One of the European projects in which the New Materials group is currently involved, which has the Xunta’s seal of excellence, is related precisely to the valorisation of marine resources from the Galician and Portuguese Atlantic coast to develop new applications related to human health. The BlueHuman initiative, of the Interreg program, is coordinated by the 3B’s group of the University of Minho and has the participation of other UVigo teams, as well as CSIC and Cetmar, among other partners. Its objectives, until 2020, include the development of biomaterials for tissue engineering, from release devices for cartilage regeneration to combinations of marine biopolymers for wound regeneration. They also hope to obtain collagen and calcium phosphate devices from sharks for bone regeneration, among other devices for therapies with bone, cartilage and dermatological pathologies. And the project also addresses the identification of new marine compounds for cosmetics.


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