University of Cape Town
Overview of innovation

Transport Distraction Osteogenesis (TDO) is a specialist method of bone reconstruction. Bone growth is facilitated to fill a space when a small segment of bone is gradually advanced across the space using a device known as a distractor. Bone regeneration is stimulated via stem cell differentiation by the tensional stress created by the distractor as it pulls the small segment across the space.

Reconstruction of large maxillectomy defects following tumour resection, or due to a trauma incident, presents a formidable challenge to both surgeons and prosthodontists. Most existing maxillofacial transport distractors are not practically suited to distraction in the anterior curved segment of the maxilla. These devices, typically more suitable for distraction in the mandible, are uncomfortably large and do not perform well on curvilinear trajectories.

The maxilla also consists of softer bone and tissue than is found in the mandible, making existing distractors unsuitable. There is therefore a need in the distractor market that facilitates the regeneration of bone and soft tissue growth in the maxilla in a curvilinear trajectory, which this innovation aims to fill.

The University of Cape Town (UCT)’s invention is a novel transport distraction device for the human maxilla. The invention is aimed at replacing the current “gold standard” technology to reconstruct large post maxillectomy defects ‑ the revascularised fibula free flaps (RFFF). The UCT invention is a temporary implant which uses TDO to reconstruct the maxilla in a curvilinear trajectory. 

The technology is at Technology Readiness Level 8. The device has been successfully implanted into several patients with excellent results. Unfortunately, it cannot be commercialised in its present form as it needs major modifications to make it user-friendly for surgeons. Although the patient's end result is excellent with the current version, it only works because the inventors in theater are anticipating alternative plans to problems encountered during surgery and fitment. Implementation is therefore dependent on the inventors capacity to assist during surgery and fitment. Furthermore, the scope of the granted patents are very limited, and the present version falls outside the scope of the granted patents. A competitor, however, would not be able to implement the device as there is considerable amount of know-how. UCT is seeking commercial partners to drive this project by investing in further R&D, industrialisation and seeking regulatory approvals with the inventors guidance. New IP will likely be created in simplifying the device for large scale adoption.

(Images provided and copyright retained by Attri Orthopaedics (Pty) Ltd)

Type of Intellectual Property protection
Innovation Opportunity Type
Technology Readiness Level
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