Ignite | Fall 2022

Developing Solutions


Excessive bone growth commonly occurs following invasive surgery, leading patients to experience severe pain, reduced mobility and, in extreme cases, paralysis.

A group of students at Northeast Ohio Medical University is working to develop a solution.

Gabrielle Robinson and Ernesto Solorzano, Ph.D. candidates in the College of Graduate Studies, third-year medicine student Mohammad Islam and first-year medicine student Jacob Douglas comprised the Saccavi team in NEOMED’s NEOvations Bench to Bedside competition under the direction of faculty advisor Fayez Safadi, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and neurobiology. The team took home the first-place award at the first annual Bench to Bedside competition in 2021. They continue their work as a “legacy team” to expand on their project, to help create stronger bones and reduce overgrowth, a common problem for bone-strengthening products currently on the market.

The NEOvations Bench to Bedside program helps students learn the initial process of creating medical technology to meet the needs of the patient through, research, innovation and understanding the regulatory environment and commercialization. Students interact closely with mentors, such as physicians, health care providers, clinical partners and industry leaders to identify a patient’s need at the bedside and aid in the search for a medical solution. The program provides the intellectual environment, resources and education on entrepreneurship and commercialization to successfully develop novel medical solutions.

Saccavi is a system that extracts the patient’s blood prior to surgery, isolates Osteoactivin, a protein involved in bone growth, then injects the concentrated Osteoactivin into the patient at the surgical site during surgery. This is accomplished using a metal/polymer-based cage, which incorporates the Osteoactivin protein with a carrier. According to the team, the technology could have the potential to isolate other proteins as well.

The device can be used in most orthopedic surgeries that involve bone damage. It helps lead to stronger bones post-surgery, eliminates overgrowth of bone, and results in speedier recovery times. It not only helps the individual get back on their feet with much less pain, it also has a positive impact on the health care system as patients are able to leave the hospital and get back to their lives much quicker.

Saccavi focuses on the development of a new method to concentrate specific osteogenic proteins circulating in blood, bone autogenous grafts and bone marrow. The targeted delivery of the bone cells and other local osteoinductive (stem cells to bone) and osteoconductive (matrix for exciting bone cells) substances is critical to the success of this technology. It is expected that the technology under investigation will address the issue of delayed bone healing and reduce rates of mortality and morbidity, hospital stays, surgery and hospital costs. It also offers an easy to apply, sterile medical device to facilitate accelerated fracture healing.

Autogenous bone grafting procedures have long been considered the “gold standard” among graft materials. Using the patient's own bone is more expensive, because it includes two surgical sites as well as hospitalization and anesthesia. The main advantage of human autogenous grafts is that this type of graft has osteoinductive and osteoconductive properties while synthetic grafts have only osteoconductive properties.

The team is currently exploring further advancement of technology development and manufacturing options that will ultimately impact the direction of the project.

“Things can get tricky once it gets to the manufacturing phase,” said Robinson. “There are many aspects  to consider, so we have some work and decisions ahead of us. But we’re excited about all the possibilities that will help both patients and the health care industry as a whole.”