Sharma awarded the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute Pilot Grant for Junior Faculty

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Blanka Sharma, assistant professor in the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, was awarded the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Pilot Grant for Junior Faculty on a project titled, “Chondroprotective nanoparticles for the treatment of osteoarthritis.”

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent, debilitating disease characterized by the degeneration of cartilage in synovial joints, and is presently without a cure. Despite the identification of numerous growth factors, cytokines, and small molecule drugs that protect or regenerate cartilage tissue, disease-­modifying agents for OA have been elusive, due in large part to poor retention and targeting of therapeutics within the joint. This proposal describes an innovative approach to enhancing drug localization to cartilage and protecting the tissue after traumatic joint injury in a manner that could be implemented during arthroscopic procedures. The proposed delivery platform combines biodegradable drug-­releasing nanoparticles (NPs) with a biocompatible chondroitin sulfate-­based adhesive to “paint” onto the cartilage surface and seal the NPs within the cartilage tissue. The “paintable” drug-­loaded NP system will be assessed ex vivo for NP entrapment within cartilage, in vitro for chondroprotective potential, and in vivo for joint distribution and therapeutic impact. The system would address our long term goal of protecting cartilage against the harmful outcome of traumatic injury and ultimately decreasing the incidence of OA.

The long-­term goal of this proposal is to develop drug delivery systems that can target multiple, synergistic disease pathways in OA in order to provide a comprehensive approach to degenerative joint disease.

The UF CTSI provides intramural awards to support the growth of interdisciplinary and investigator-initiated clinical and translational research across UF’s broad range of scientific disciplines.

Congratulations, Dr. Sharma!