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Less Joint Replacement in OA?

The rheumatologic disease that is Osteoarthritis (OA) affects some 32 million Americans, and a common treatment modality is joint replacement. Per the CDC and the American College of Rheumatology, Americans receive 790,000 knees and 470,000 hips each year.

But are there better ways than surgery?

As of May of 2023, we have the ARPA-H announces first program launch (Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health)–

“ARPA-H has launched its first program, Novel Innovations for Tissue Regeneration in Osteoarthritis, or NITRO.

NITRO will explore technologies focused on injectable bone regeneration, injectable cartilage regeneration and replacement joints built from human cells. These minimally invasive technologies could reverse the damage caused by osteoarthritis, which is the third leading cause of disability in the U.S. and for which existing treatments are largely heavily invasive (i.e. surgery).

NITRO Program Manager Ross Uhrich said, “While it is an ambitious task, the goal of NITRO is to eradicate OA through targeted, regenerative therapeutics that aim to revolutionize care, prevent pain, lessen the economic burden, and eliminate the need for repeat joint surgery.” ARPA-H will issue a Broad Agency Announcement to solicit proposals for this program.

ARPA-H anticipates making multiple awards under this announcement. Total funding and funding per award will depend on the quality of the proposals and the availability of funds.”

And then there’s the ARPA-H NITRO program where they frame the problem with clarity–

“How often do most people think about their healthy joints? Probably not much. But when the cartilage and bone that make up our joints starts to deteriorate – usually as the result of age or injury – the effects can be impossible to ignore. People begin to suffer from stiffness, pain, and in some cases even total loss of mobility.

This degenerative disease – known as osteoarthritis – currently affects around 32 million people nationwide, with numbers predicted to rise sharply as the population ages. Osteoarthritis is already the third most common type of disability and has an estimated economic burden of more than $136 billion per year.”

Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ARPA-H aims to accelerate breakthroughs that empower every American to realize their full health potential – turning the seemingly impossible to the possible to the actual.

OA sufferers may have manifold more options than the Operating Room in coming years; ARPA-H is an agency to watch.