SpineFX aims to deliver a multidisciplinary training program that will provide the European Union with future research leaders and entrepreneurs who will have the capacity to overcome the challenges posed by major diseases of the spine. These researchers will have the necessary subject-specific knowledge and the wider complementary skills demanded by industry with which to deliver timely and cost-effective solutions to some of Europe's most urgent healthcare problems: those of back pain and immobility caused by vertebral insufficiency fractures and spinal trauma.

European Overview

The human spine is truly the backbone of musculoskeletal health, providing the framework for upright posture, locomotion, mobility and normal daily activity. The vertebral column derives its function predominantly from the integrity of the bony vertebrae and intervertebral discs, which together form a stable yet highly mobile column. However, the spine is associated with a number of chronic pathological conditions that place considerable demands on EU healthcare systems, including vertebral fractures associated with osteoporosis, metastases and spinal trauma. These fractures, which are the research focus of this ITN, constitute a staggering societal burden:

  • The life-time risk of osteoporotic fractures is 50% in women and 20% in men at the age of 50.
  • Vertebral fractures constitute the most common symptom of osteoporosis.
  • Up to 80% of patients with certain cancers experience spinal metastases, many of which will lead to fracture.
  • The incidence of spinal cord injury is approximately 40 people per million, while the figure for vertebral trauma is 10 times higher.

Whilst the personal and social costs of these pathologies are severe, the economic consequences are also alarming:

  • EU expenditure due to osteoporosis currently exceeds €30 billion, and is predicted to rise to over €75 billion by 2050.
  • The lifetime direct costs for each spinal trauma patient presently exceed €1 million. These costs are rising fast as the burden expands due to ageing populations, rising patient expectations, and procedures being practised successfully in younger patients.
  • Both the United Nations and the World Health Organization recognise this challenge and put forward the Bone and Joint Decade from 2000 to 2010.

Aims and Objectives

The SpineFX Initial Training Network (ITN) was developed to respond to these challenges through the following aims and objectives:

To develop a cohort of highly-skilled researchers capable of delivering effective solutions for spinal disease and trauma, and thus significantly enhance the European Research Area's competitiveness as a global leader in Biomedical Engineering in the public and private sectors.

project overview diagram