April 20, 2023

McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health sets 30th anniversary fundraising challenge for Giving Day

Institute celebrates innovative research in stem cell therapy, wound healing, sciatica diagnostics and more
The Ronsky Lab at the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health uses a video x-ray system known as Biplanar Fluoroscopy, seen above, to directly measure bone movements.
Researchers at the McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health use a video x-ray system called Biplanar Fluoroscopy to directly measure bone movement. Don Molyneux for the University of Calgary

To celebrate its 30th anniversary this month, the University of Calgary’s McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health at the Cumming School of Medicine is hoping community members will join the party and invest in its innovative bone and joint research and its translation to better treatments.

The institute has set a fundraising goal of $30,000 this Giving Day period, which continues now through April 27. UCalgary Giving Day is an opportunity for a gift to make double the impact. Whether supporting scholarships, faculty funds, research or any one of our other designated funds, all eligible Giving Day donations will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 per gift, while matching funds last.

“With Giving Day matching, the McCaig Institute would only need 150 people to gift $100 to the Bone and Joint Health Research - Greatest Needs fund to reach our $30,000 goal. A small gift makes a big impact,” says Dr. Steven Boyd, PhD, director, McCaig Institute for Bone and Joint Health.

Our multidisciplinary research group of engineers, physician researchers and basic scientists collaborate to come up with real-world solutions to bone and joint problems that affect millions of Canadians, building and expanding on each other’s expertise every day.

New diagnostics for sciatica

Examples of those solutions include the work of Dr. Ganesh Swamy, MD, PhD. Swamy is developing a predictive test for spontaneous resolution of sciatica pain, also known as slipped or herniated discs. The McCaig Institute member and spine surgeon says 15 per cent of sciatica patients never have their pain resolve and end up needing spine surgery. These patients suffer tremendous pain, disability and lost productivity.

Swamy and his team are working on validating results from a pilot study, which suggest that blood-based biomarkers may predict the need for surgery when sciatica first starts. If the pilot is successful, physicians could provide interventions and pain relief earlier. This would be the first such test for this very common condition.

Regenerating healthier joints with stem cells

Dr. Holly Sparks, DVM, PhD, and NSERC Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Equine Regenerative Medicine is part of an interdisciplinary group of McCaig Institute researchers investigating the potential for stem cell therapies to treat joint injuries across species. By bringing together researchers from both veterinary and human medicine, as well as biomedical engineering, this study examines whether stem cell therapy can improve the healing of traumatic joint injuries and reduce inflammation and pain in horses.

The study will not only guide veterinarians managing these types of injuries common in equine patients, but also provide important preclinical data for similar injuries commonly encountered in  humans. This preclinical work follows previous studies by the team to characterize patient-derived stem cells and identify those with the greatest therapeutic benefit.

While there is a lot of promise for stem cell therapies, and no shortage of preclinical studies around the world, not one stem-cell therapy — for humans or animals — has yet been approved for use in North America.

Healing skin wounds with a joint lubricant

The McCaig Institute’s Dr. Roman Krawetz, PhD, is the Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Bone and Joint Stem Cell Biology and he is a co-investigator on the above stem cell therapy study. He is also uncovering innovative solutions to heal wounds. He discovered that proteoglycan 4 (PRG4), also known as lubricin, a bodily fluid that lubricates joints, may hold the key to rehabilitating scars and improving wound healing.

Krawetz's lab made the connection after applying lubricin on a mouse's injured ear — not expecting it to do anything. Surprisingly, the wound closed up. He is now investigating the potential of lubricin in other models similar to human skin before conducting clinical trials. Krawetz believes lubricin has unlimited potential and could be used in the future to treat chronic wounds like diabetic ulcers.

Lubricin has previously been used in clinical trials for dry eye disease, but this is the first time anyone has linked it to the wound-healing response.

Making a powerful difference

“Our research teams have developed new and innovative solutions, resulting in discoveries that haven’t occurred anywhere else in the world. Their efforts are leading to faster diagnoses and improved treatments. Gifts to Bone and Joint Health Research - Greatest Needs will be used to support priority research in bone and joint health at the McCaig Institute — an investment in helping Calgarians and Canadians stay healthy and active,” says Boyd.

Since its launch in 2017, UCalgary Giving Day has raised more than $8.5 million to create lasting, positive change — on campus, in the community and beyond — by creating exceptional student experiences, advancing critical research and empowering the next generation of business and community leaders.

UCalgary Giving Day is April 27. Whether you support student awards, critical research or any one of UCalgary’s innovative funds, your gift will help change lives and shape the future. All eligible gifts made from April 1-27 will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 per gift — but only while matching funds last. Make your gift today at ucalgary.ca/givingday.

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