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Emory School of Medicine partners with the VA and University of Pennsylvania to reduce the burden of osteoarthritis on veterans
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Jacob Gnieski
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Emory School of Medicine partners with the VA and University of Pennsylvania to improve the burden of osteoarthritis on veterans

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Emory University School of Medicine, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the University of Pennsylvania, is launching a new initiative to discover novel treatments for veterans who suffer from osteoarthritis and related conditions.

A $6.3 million grant awarded by the VA’s Office of Research and Development will establish the new CReATE Motion Center. This multidisciplinary center will unite physician scholars and research scientists specializing in bioengineering, cell-based therapies, regenerative medicine, pain management, rheumatology, neurology and orthopedic surgery. Together, they will collaborate to develop treatments that minimize the need for joint replacement surgeries for veterans affected by osteoarthritis — a disease affecting millions worldwide with no current therapies to halt its progression.

Veterans are diagnosed with osteoarthritis at rates substantially higher than those in the general public. Approximately one-third of veterans suffer from some form of arthritis, highlighting a critical area of need.

The focus of the CReATE Motion Center (Cartilage Regeneration Using Advanced Technologies to Enable Motion Research Center) is on preserving and regenerating cartilage by developing non-surgical, biologic treatments. Researchers aim to eliminate the need for joint replacement surgery by addressing arthritis at its various stages, including halting disease progression early on, preserving 'healthy' cartilage during the disease's middle stages, and ultimately replacing cartilage in those with advanced-stage arthritis.

The center will operate two key facilities: a main center at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center and a site office at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

Hicham Drissi, PhD, a distinguished stem cell biologist specializing in cartilage development and cell and molecular biology, will lead the Atlanta site. Drissi holds positions as a professor and vice chair of research in Emory’s Department of Orthopaedics, as well as a secondary appointment in the Department of Cell Biology at the Emory University School of Medicine.

“The launch of the CReATE Motion Center is a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to advance and enhance the health of veterans,” says Drissi. “Despite extensive research, effective disease-modifying drugs for osteoarthritis remain undiscovered. By bringing together physicians, biologists, and engineers from Emory, UPenn and the VA, this center fosters a comprehensive approach to tackling the problem. Our goal is to develop practical solutions that will improve the quality of life for veterans affected by this condition.”

Over the next five years, the center will target three research focus areas: stem cells and cellular products, small molecules, and biomaterials and rehabilitation. Each focus area is designed to support investigators to propel new discoveries from the laboratory to clinical settings.

The CReATE Motion Center is currently operational and housed within the existing infrastructure of the Philadelphia and Atlanta VA Medical Centers. Researchers at the Atlanta site office are comprised of Emory University faculty members affiliated with the Department of Orthopaedics.

Researchers with the Philadelphia and Atlanta VA Medical Centers celebrate the opening of the CReATE Motion Center.

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