Toward a disruptive, minimally invasive small finger joint implant concept: Cellular and molecular interactions with materials in vivo

Heithem Ben Amara, Pardis Farjam, Theresa M. Lutz, Omar Omar, Anders Palmquist, Oliver Lieleg, Martin Browne, Andy Taylor, Gijsbertus J. Verkerke, Jeroen Rouwkema, Peter Thomsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Osteoarthritis (OA) poses significant therapeutic challenges, particularly OA that affects the hand. Currently available treatment strategies are often limited in terms of their efficacy in managing pain, regulating invasiveness, and restoring joint function. The APRICOT implant system developed by Aurora Medical Ltd (Chichester, UK) introduces a minimally invasive, bone-conserving approach for treating hand OA ( By utilizing polycarbonate urethane (PCU), this implant incorporates a caterpillar track-inspired design to promote the restoration of natural movement to the joint. Surface modifications of PCU have been proposed for the biological fixation of the implant. This study investigated the biocompatibility of PCU alone or in combination with two surface modifications, namely dopamine-carboxymethylcellulose (dCMC) and calcium-phosphate (CaP) coatings. In a rat soft tissue model, native and CaP-coated PCU foils did not increase cellular migration or cytotoxicity at the implant–soft tissue interface after 3 d, showing gene expression of proinflammatory cytokines similar to that in non-implanted sham sites. However, dCMC induced an amplified initial inflammatory response that was characterized by increased chemotaxis and cytotoxicity, as well as pronounced gene activation of proinflammatory macrophages and neoangiogenesis. By 21 d, inflammation subsided in all the groups, allowing for implant encapsulation. In a rat bone model, 6 d and 28 d after release of the periosteum, all implant types were adapted to the bone surface with a surrounding fibrous capsule and no protracted inflammatory response was observed. These findings demonstrated the biocompatibility of native and CaP-coated PCU foils as components of APRICOT implants. Statement of significance: Hand osteoarthritis treatments require materials that minimize irritation of the delicate finger joints. Differing from existing treatments, the APRICOT implant leverages polycarbonate urethane (PCU) for minimally invasive joint replacement. This interdisciplinary, preclinical study investigated the biocompatibility of thin polycarbonate urethane (PCU) foils and their surface modifications with calcium-phosphate (CaP) or dopamine-carboxymethylcellulose (dCMC). Cellular and morphological analyses revealed that both native and Ca-P coated PCU elicit transient inflammation, similar to sham sites, and a thin fibrous encapsulation in soft tissues and on bone surfaces. However, dCMC surface modification amplified initial chemotaxis and cytotoxicity, with pronounced activation of proinflammatory and neoangiogenesis genes. Therefore, native and CaP-coated PCU possess sought-for biocompatible properties, crucial for patient safety and performance of APRICOT implant.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Animal models
  • Biocompatibility
  • Gene expression
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Polyurethanes


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