HydroZONES will advance the research on the development of materials physically suitable for printing and, at the same time, supporting cell survival and material-driven cell differentiation. The lack of such materials has been acknowledged as one of the bottlenecks holding back advances in the field of bioprinting. Moreover, the printing technology developed will facilitate the generation of organised 3D tissue equivalents, which can be applied as implants, as in vitro screening assays, or to further our understanding of tissue regeneration in a more physiological environment. HydroZONES will also deliver a more physiological in vitro cartilage defect model that will open new opportunities for studying the governing processes of tissue regeneration and potentially be able to replace animal experimentation.
There are several clinical technologies available for treatment of articular cartilage defects but none of these provide a consistent and durable long-term solution. Damage of articular cartilage occurs frequently and is followed by a process of OA, ultimately leading to pain and joint malfunction. With joint related problems such as OA affecting as many as 40 million people in Europe alone, and the incidence increasing as the population ages, there is great potential to improve the quality of life of this significant and increasing population segment. The HydroZONES consortium includes clinicians who are respected experts in the field of cartilage repair.

Biocompatibility as well as small and large pre-clinical animal studies will be conducted under a consortium wide quality system that will enable rapid translation of the developed technology to a clinical trial. In addition, pre-clinical equine studies will translate directly into veterinary practice once suitable EMA marketing approval has been obtained.

While the total direct annual costs of OA in the US are estimated at $89.1 billion, the indirect costs are also high. For example, the impact of arthritic diseases on earnings increased in recent years, with $108 billion of earnings being lost in 2003 in the US alone. In 2012, a 156 % increase in costs over 1993 was noted, which was for more than 90% due to an increase in the number of patients, rather than to an increase of costs per patient. HydroZONES will help to reduce costs for European healthcare systems by generating cheaper alternatives based on instructive biomaterials to regenerate the complex tissue organisation.

Within the HydroZONES consortium, 4 of the 14 partners are SMEs and 3 of these SMEs are actual end-users of outcomes of this project without colliding exploitation interests. HydroZONES will generate broad economic added value and impact for European industry along the product developmental line.