The increasing longevity is a recent unsurpassed demographic phenomenon in the history of Humanity with a considerable impact on health and well-being. Osteoporosis, for example, is becoming pandemic: in Europe, its prevalence is 5-6 % in men and 8-18 % in women older than 50 years. In the same way, the ageing human population is experiencing increasing numbers of symptoms related to its degenerative articular cartilage. Traumatic and degenerative lesions of articular joint cartilage eventually progress to osteoarthritis, a leading source of disability worldwide. The incidence of this pathology is high: it reaches 8 to 17% of the population and is closely related to ageing. One third of the population of the developed countries was more than 60 years old in 2010 and will be exposed to osteoarthritis or osteoporosis. As a consequence, for example, about 600.000 total hip replacements are performed each year in Europe. An estimated 30 million people in the largest European Union (EU) also suffer from back-pain, due to inter-vertebral disc degeneration and over 150,000 invasive spinal fusions are performed annually. With the ageing of the population in European countries and the need for a ‘better’ comfort, the number of total hip replacements, bone reconstructions, and spinal fusions, will inevitably increase within the next 10-20 years.
Currently, the US medical device industry is the most competitive in the world (accounting for more than 50% of the global production and consumption), recognized for its ability to continually design, develop, and place innovative medical devices in US and foreign markets. This can be attributed on one hand to a higher level of R&D investment and greater availability of venture capital than in the EU; and on another hand to a gap between R&D and industries that has to be reduced in order to help SMEs to develop and to commercialize new advanced products on the market. Commercial materials based on inert bio-materials (ceramics, polymers and metals) have been used since 1970’s, as hip and knee prosthesis. Since a few decades, calcium phosphate composites for bone regeneration have appeared on the market, in dentistry and traumatology. Development of new biocomposite materials, with tailored shapes and improved processing and bioactivity (e.g. by means of surface modification) would provide enough structural integrity during bone regeneration to be used in load-bearing applications. The current challenge is to develop graded and/or hierarchical complex composites, trying to mimic the architecture of human bones.
A large part of the partners in this COST Action do have funding for research at a national and European levels but the COST programme is obviously the best framework to provide a solution to the problems of the lack of interactions between partners coming from R&D, industries and hospital units. This COST Action would allow triangular exchanges between R&D, industry and hospital fields in a multimaterial and interdisciplinary network, in which industrials and hospital units are more than simply partners, but also actors, and to set up technological watch on advanced and innovative biomaterials.