Bioengineered Temporomandibular Joint Disk Implants: Study Protocol for a Two-Phase Exploratory Randomized Preclinical Pilot Trial in 18 Black Merino Sheep (TEMPOJIMS)

JMIR Res Protoc. 2017 Mar 2;6(3):e37. doi: 10.2196/resprot.6779.


Background: Preclinical trials are essential to test efficacious options to substitute the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disk. The contemporary absence of an ideal treatment for patients with severe TMJ disorders can be related to difficulties concerning the appropriate study design to conduct preclinical trials in the TMJ field. These difficulties can be associated with the use of heterogeneous animal models, the use of the contralateral TMJ as control, the absence of rigorous randomized controlled preclinical trials with blinded outcomes assessors, and difficulties involving multidisciplinary teams.

Objective: This study aims to develop a new, reproducible, and effective study design for preclinical research in the TMJ domain, obtaining rigorous data related to (1) identify the impact of bilateral discectomy in black Merino sheep, (2) identify the impact of bilateral discopexy in black Merino sheep, and (3) identify the impact of three different bioengineering TMJ discs in black Merino sheep.

Methods: A two-phase exploratory randomized controlled preclinical trial with blinded outcomes is proposed. In the first phase, nine sheep are randomized into three different surgical bilateral procedures: bilateral discectomy, bilateral discopexy, and sham surgery. In the second phase, nine sheep are randomized to bilaterally test three different TMJ bioengineering disk implants. The primary outcome is the histological gradation of TMJ. Secondary outcomes are imaging changes, absolute masticatory time, ruminant time per cycle, ruminant kinetics, ruminant area, and sheep weight.

Results: Previous preclinical studies in this field have used the contralateral unoperated side as a control, different animal models ranging from mice to a canine model, with nonrandomized, nonblinded and uncontrolled study designs and limited outcomes measures. The main goal of this exploratory preclinical protocol is to set a new standard for future preclinical trials in oromaxillofacial surgery, particularly in the TMJ field, by proposing a rigorous design in black Merino sheep. The authors also intend to test the feasibility of pilot outcomes. The authors expect to increase the quality of further studies in this field and to progress in future treatment options for patients undergoing surgery for TMJ disk replacement.

Conclusions: The study has commenced, but it is too early to provide results or conclusions.

Keywords: temporomandibular joint bioengineered disk implants; temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD); temporomandibular randomized preclinical trial protocol.