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(EPSRC DTP) Understanding the toxicology of frontier bioelectronic materials and devices

Project Description

Silicone-based elastomers [1] and intrinsically conducting polymers [2] (ICPs; e.g. polyanilines, polythiophenes, polypyrroles) are likely to be important components of the next generation of implantable bioelectronic devices due to their viscoelasticity, resistance to biofouling, chemical and thermal resistance. There is currently extremely limited information of the toxicity of bioelectronics materials on a variety of tissues, especially in tissues that are distant from the likely site of implantation. Information is also lacking on the effect on toxicology of operational bioelectronic devices, where the generation of local electromagnetic fields may have physicochemical effects on the interface between the device and the surrounding milieu (e.g. alterations in the rate of leaching of small molecules, localised redox /electrochemical reactions).

Thus, this project aims to assess the toxicology profile of model bioelectronic devices on human cells. Initially model organic field-effect transistor (OFET) devices will be produced using biocatalytic scanning probe lithography, and their performance and operational reliability assessed. Subsequently, the toxicological potency of agents potentially leached from the devices (both acute and chronic) with simulated body fluids will be assessed by: a) Chemical identification and quantification of any leachates from the devices. b) toxicity assessments by acellular and cellular assays, including cytotoxicity, genotoxicity and other cellular effects (e.g. gene expression).

Though this particular project will target specific types of materials and cell types for study, it is intended that the work will also develop standardised procedures for the toxicological testing of other advanced biomedical materials. By the end of this project, it is anticipated that a toxicological profile of these model devices (and the materials contained therein) will be produced, with respect to the studied tissues. The results of which will serve to inform the design of future devices and clinical trials. For example, the need for coatings or use of alternative materials to reduce toxicity.

Entry Requirements:

Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Funding Notes

EPSRC DTP studentship with funding for a duration of 3.5 years to commence in September 2020. The studentship covers UK/EU tuition fees and an annual minimum stipend £15,285 per annum. Due to funding restrictions, the studentship is open to UK and EU nationals with 3 years residency in the UK.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


[1] J. Bettinger. Recent advances in materials and flexible electronics for peripheral nerve interfaces. Bioelectronic Med., 2018, 4, 6.

[2] R. Green, M. R. Abidian. Conducting Polymers for Neural Prosthetic and Neural Interface Applications. Adv. Mater., 2015, 27, 7620.

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