Application deadline: 3rd March
Interviews to be held: 31 March 2021
Peripheral nerve injuries are common, with approximately 9000 cases occurring each year in the UK in a predominantly young and working population. Despite microsurgical nerve repair techniques, normal restoration of function is unattainable, which results in impaired sensation, reduced motor function and frequent pain and cold intolerance. Such injuries have a profound and permanent impact on the patient and their ability to perform daily living activities with less than 60% returning to work.1
The current method of repairing a large gap between nerve endings is to graft nerves taken from another area of the patient (autograft). This results in a further surgical procedure and morbidity at the harvesting site. In addition there is limited donor nerve availability. This state of affair has prompted researchers to focus on the design and use of bio-engineered nerve conduits (tubes), an artificial means of guiding nerve regeneration. However, to date, commercially available conduits have not been able to match the results of the current clinical state of the art technique (autograft). This is likely due to the nerve conduits in current use being empty tubes and failing to re-create the 3-dimentional environment required for optimal nerve regeneration.2
Main questions to be answered
The challenge we will tackle through this project is the design of a fully defined synthetic composite 3D-scaffold that promotes nerve regeneration to be used within nerve conduits. For this purpose the project aims to develop an amino acid based elastomeric tube and a graphene oxide functionalised peptide hydrogel scaffold to promote cell neuronal cell differentiation and proliferation. Graphene oxide nano-carriers will be used to immobilise and deliver growth factors within the hydrogel to promote re-innervation. One of the key novel approaches to be used is additive manufacturing (3D-bioprinting) to micro pattern the composite scaffold to promote directional growth of neurones. Graphene oxide will be deposited as thin filament / layer along the main axes of the conduit to drive and direct neuronal cells migration and nerve growth along the tube promoting innervation.3-5
EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Biomedical Materials
This project is part of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Biomedical Materials. All available projects are listed here.
Find out how to apply, with full details on eligibility and funding here.