Researchers at the University of Birmingham are developing new technologies that will help minimise the impact of scarring both on the skin and the eyes.
Emma McCarthy, a Doctoral Researcher from the Physical Sciences Health CDT and the Healthcare Technologies Institute is currently developing a wound dressing to reduce surface scarring of the eye to prevent blindness. This will be beneficial for those within the developing world who do not have instant access to surgeons and clinics.
Emma shares what originally inspired her interest in science and engineering, her anti-scarring research, and what she enjoys most about working at the University of Birmingham.
My research predominately revolves around manipulating collagen, a scaffold like protein essential for tissue function, by using physical and chemical parameters to help repair wounds. One of the main research areas involves developing a wound dressing, which is both patterned and chemically altered, to reduce surface scarring of the eye and to prevent blindness caused from the scar.
The wound dressing will allow those who have a cut on the surface of their eye to be treated rapidly, immediately after injury has occurred. As the wound dressing will influence collagen assembly, it will reduce the likelihood of a scar forming. A scar is the result of disorganised collagen and this organisation is extremely important to keep the eye transparent. This will be especially beneficial for those within the developing world who do not have instant access to surgeons and clinics, which are imperative to the current treatment of surface eye scarring.
I was first inspired while doing work experience at school. I was lucky enough to shadow a lot of scientists working in research labs in London and was excited by how they could come up with innovative ideas to tackle medical problems. I was then able to work at a company called Imanova, looking at how lesions in the neck could be used as an early marker for multiple sclerosis. This work experience solidified my interest in science and engineering.
At university I was very interested in how physics, my original discipline, could be used to solve biological questions. Through both work experience and guest lecturers at university I got excited about how science can be used to really help others. The Physical Sciences for Health CDT that I am currently part of gave me the platform to learn about how we can best help people as scientists and where my interest in BioChemical Engineering truly became apparent.
The research group that I work in is highly interdisciplinary. I work with scientists from all different backgrounds. This enormously helps the progression of research as a problem that can be tackled from all directions, preventing tunnel vision with regards to what we can do to fix medical issues. The CDT course that I am on also provided the ability for someone originally from physics to transition into something more interdisciplinary and tackle problems with a wider viewpoint that I would not have been able to do by staying in physics alone.
Read more about the fascinating research taking place at the Healthcare Technologies Institute (HTI).