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4-year PhD Studentship: Developing new synergistic therapies of bactericidal nanotopography and biophysical stimulation to combat AMR bacterial infections of implants

   Faculty of Health Sciences

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  Prof B Su, Dr A Nobbs, Dr AW Perriman  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The recent WHO report (2019) on global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) highlights not only the growing issue of resistance, identifying it as one of the greatest threats we face as a global community, but also the lack of new effective options to tackle bacterial infections. AMR costs the NHS an estimated £1 billion a year. Globally, it could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and an annual economic cost of £69 trillion.

Meanwhile, the demand for orthopaedic implants has been steadily increasing worldwide due to an ageing population, the rise in obesity and a change to more active lifestyles, which is collectively leading to more osteoarthritis and degeneration of cartilage and subchondral bone in joints. In England and Wales, 187,879 primary hip and knee replacements were performed in 2015, corresponding to a rise of 46,786 since 2007. However, the number of revision hip and knee procedures also increased from 11,156 to 15,027 over the same period. The two main causes leading to implant failure and revision are aseptic loosening and infection. Current treatments of implant infections which are mostly reliant on antibiotics and silver have not been effective and developed antibacterial resistance. New anti-infective therapies are urgently needed.

Aims and Objectives

Protruding nanotopographies e.g., nanopillars on insect wings have shown to be bactericidal [1]. We have developed a range of biomimetic bactericidal nanostructures on implant materials such as titanium and investigated their unique bactericidal mechanisms [2-7]. Studies have also shown that bacteria can be inactivated with high efficiency on similar nanostructured surfaces under low electric currents [8], and electrical stimulation promotes the osteogenesis and accelerates the regeneration of bones [9]. The aim of this project is to develop synergistic therapies by combining electrical stimulation with nanotopography to combat AMR bacterial infections, while promoting the osseointegration of titanium implants.


Firstly, bactericidal nanotopographies will be created on both flat and 3D printed titanium surface using hydrothermal etching and ion doping. Nanostructured surfaces with tunable feature sizes and conductivity will be produced. A range of analytical and microscopic techniques (XPS, XRD, Raman, SEM, TEM, AFM) will be used to characterise the nanostructured surfaces. Other physical properties e.g., wettability and conductivity will also be characterised.

Secondly, bactericidal properties of the nanostructured surfaces under electrical stimulation will be assessed by measurement of bacterial metabolic activity and viability using BacTiter-Glo Viability and Live/Dead assay for end-point analysis. Clinical pathogens associated with orthopaedic infections will be investigated, including Gram-positive Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Gram-negative Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The effects of electric current and surface nanotopography on the bactericidal properties will be investigated. The bactericidal mechanisms will be elucidated.

Finally, osteogenic potential of the nanostructured surfaces under electrical stimulation will be evaluated using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). Optimal bactericidal nanotopographies under electric currents with cytocompatibility and osteogenesis will be identified. An MSC/bacterial co-culture model will be used to investigate the synergistic effects of electrical stimulation and nanotopographies on bacterial and cellular responses.


Antimicrobial, bactericidal, nanotopography, electric current, stem cells, osteogenesis, titanium implant

How to apply for this project

This project will be based in Bristol Dental School in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Bristol.

Please visit the Faculty of Health Sciences website for details of how to apply

Funding Notes

This project is open for University of Bristol PGR scholarship applications (closing date 25th February 2022)
The University of Bristol PGR scholarship pays tuition fees and a maintenance stipend (at the minimum UKRI rate) for the duration of a PhD (typically three years but can be up to four years).


1. Elena P. Ivanova, et al. Natural bactericidal surfaces: mechanical rupture of Pseudomondas aeruginosa cells by cicada wings. Small 8(2012) 2489–2494
2. Ting Diu, et al., Cicada-inspired cell-instructive nanopatterned arrays, Scientific Reports 4 (2014) 7122.
3. Penelope M. Tsimbouri, et al. Osteogenic and bactericidal surfaces from hydrothermal titania nanowires on titanium substrates, Scientific Reports, 6 (2016) 36857
4. Abinash Tripathy, et al. Natural and bioinspired nanostructured bactericidal surfaces, Advances in Colloid and Interface Science 248 (2017) 85–104
5. Gavin Hazell, et al. Bioinspired bactericidal surfaces with polymer nanocone arrays, Journal of Colloid & Interface Science 528 (2018) 388-398
6. Joshua Jenkins, et al. Antibacterial effects of nanopillar surfaces are mediated by cell impedance, penetration and induction of oxidative stress, Nature Communications 11 (2020) 1626.
7. Mohd I. Ishak, et al. Insights into complex nanopillar-bacteria interactions: Roles of nanotopography and bacterial surface proteins, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science 604 (2021) 91–103
8. Chong Liu, et al. Conducting Nanosponge Electroporation for Affordable and High-Efficiency Disinfection of Bacteria and Viruses in Water, Nano Letters 13 (2013) 4288−4293
9. Shi-Ting Chen, et al. Microscopic Volta potential difference on metallic surface promotes the osteogenic differentiation and proliferation of human mesenchymal stem cells, Materials Science & Engineering C 128 (2021) 112325
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