Research in the Physical Sciences for Health Centre is focused on addressing the three themes of ageing, trauma and cardiovascular related health issues. A number of our PhD students are working in the area of biomaterials, addressing in both ageing and trauma. These students are developing materials to aid in the treatment of serious bone fractures; methods for producing models to study the processes involved in osteoarthritis and develop better treatments; and discovering how to manipulate collagen formation to produce dressings encouraging better healing of soft tissue injuries.
Emma McCarthy is working on developing materials that are able to manipulate the formation of collagen fibrils, in order to reduce scarring in patients with soft tissue injuries.
Second year PhD student Meg Cooke is currently working of the development of an in vitro model of osteoarthritis using hydrogels to both encapsulate cells and support the printing of cell-based bioinks, under the supervision of Professor Liam Grover and Dr Simon Jones. Using a fluid gel network, low viscosity polymer solutions can be printed into 3-dimensional space prior to crosslinking to form gels. Meg is using this technique to produce multi-layered constructs containing cells isolated from both cartilage and bone to model the interaction between the two cells types in osteoarthritis. This model is being developed to be used a potential drug screening tool, reducing the number of animals used in pre-clinical testing by reducing the failures at the pre-clinical phase, due to the availability of an improved model for drug screening. Biomaterials are critical to the success of this project as both the fluid matrix and bio-ink precursors are chosen specifically to allow the formation of cartilage and bone-like matrices. This research was recently published in an Advanced Materials article, available here.
First year PhD students Emma McCarthy and Samir Hamidi are both working on projects which will eventually aid in the treatment of traumatic injuries – soft tissue and bone respectively.
The eventual aim of Emma’s project is to develop a new generation of dressings for patients with traumatic soft tissue injury, through developing materials that are able to manipulate the formation of collagen fibrils, which are important in healing and scarring. By investigating the use of structured surfaces to direct the deposition of extracellular matrix, Emma hopes to be able to produce a dressing that results in reduced scarring for patients.Alongside structured surfaces, Emma is also investigating how the presence of inorganic ions affects collagen fibril formation, and will be presenting work on this topic at the Collagen Gordon Research Conference later this year. Emma is conducting her PhD research in the group of Professor Liam Grover, who has a track record of innovation in wound healing.
A novel, scar-reducing dressing for burns patients, previously developed by Professor Liam Grover.
Samir is addressing the need for new materials to stabilise and support healing of fractures in long bones, such as the humerus and tibia. Currently, these fractures are often supported by insertion of metal rods inside the bone, or affixing plates to the outside, to stabilise the bone and minimise movement during healing. However, autoimmune responses to metal rods used for bone stabilisation, their lack of suitability in patients with conditions such as osteoporosis, and complications such as infection, remain as significant limiting factors to the successful use of these devices. Samir’s project aims to address this issue by developing a novel injectable, light-curable and bioactive polymer composite material, which can be introduced to the fracture site by minimally invasive surgery (an improvement over the major surgery required to insert the devices mentioned above). The novel material technology aims to stabilise and remodel bone, before gradually degrading into materials which can either be resorbed or excreted by the body over time.
Samir is developing light curing chemistry that is designed to enable greater placement and setting control at the point of surgery and for the material to be biodegradable within 2 years. Samir’s research, under the direction of Professor Will Palin (CMDS), Dr Richard Williams and Professor Liam Grover (EPS), is currently focused on developing both organic and inorganic components of the polymer composite including aspects of photochemistry, exploring new formulation synthesis routes, photosensitisers and co-initiators that will be used to optimise photopolymerisation for this complex application.