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Novel viscosupplementation formulation for treatment of arthritis

School of Chemical Engineering

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Dr Z Zhang No more applications being accepted Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the leading causes of disability. It is common for medical professionals to recommend patients to use viscosupplementation, injection of artificial lubricant into arthritic joints, as a non-surgical intervention, for treatment of early stage arthritis. However, many aspects of such treatment remain questionable and subject of controversy. Recent evidence shows that viscosupplementation is associated with a small and clinically irrelevant benefit and could result in an increased risk for serious adverse events.


Hyaluronic acid (HA), a major component of synovial fluid, has been used predominantly in the formulation of viscosupplementation because it increases the viscosity of the aqueous solution notably. However, studies have demonstrated that HA is no longer effective when the sliding interface, e.g. synovial joint, is operated under boundary lubrication regime.

To ensure the lubrication in a degenerative joint whilst delivering anti-inflammatory medication over a long period, sub-micron particle with functional surface coating is an ideal platform. Our previous studies have demonstrated that biocompatible polymer coating carrying phosphorylcholine group has great potential to mitigate the interfacial friction. And poly(ionic liquid), a new type of polyelectrolyte, could be a suitable alternative.


Formulate a range of hybrid nanoparticle suspension that is biocompatible and effective in reducing friction as a novel platform to treat arthritis.
The objectives of this proposed work are to:
1. Synthesise a range of hybrid nanoparticles based on the polymers examined extensively in this group
2. Work closely with collaborator based in Wuhan University of Technology to examine the applicability of poly(ionic liquid) as a suitable surface coating
3. Characterise bulk stability and mechanical properties of individual particles
4. Integration of nanoparticle-based suspension
5. Optimise and validate the new formulation

Training & opportunities

This project provides the PhD candidate with a perfect opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary environment with elements of Physical Chemistry, Biomaterial, and medical practice. Laboratory skills including polymer synthesis, and characterization such as Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM), Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM), and nanotribometer will be offered in this project along with knowledge of biomedical engineering and formulation engineering. It will also be possible to participate in international conferences and training schools.

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