The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has awarded a grant worth £1.2 million to researchers at The University of Nottingham to engineer nanomaterials for medical applications.
The project at The University of Nottingham will focus on the development of medical polymer-based (plastic) nanocomposites to be used as surgical implants that will be gradually break down and get absorbed by the body safely once the job is completed. By this manner, these nanomaterials could substitute metal implants used in bone surgery.
Pro Vice Chancellor Chris Rudd intends to develop a safe and efficient way of producing nanomaterials, which can be utilized as vehicles for bone tissue regeneration and drug delivery. The four-year project will start from October 2012. By the end of the project, the scientists anticipate developing demonstration models so that the research can be advanced to the clinical study stage.
Promethean Particles, TESco Associates, Lucite International Speciality Polymers, Evonik Roehm and Thermo Fisher Scientific are the global industry partners who will provide advice and equipment to the research project.
Specific challenges that need to be addressed by the new research are as follows:
- To find out ways to synthesize uniform sized and shaped nanoparticles. To achieve this, Promethean Particles, a spinoff of the University of Nottingham, will utilize its breakthrough technique of producing nanoparticles dispersed in water. This includes synthesis of new nanoparticles of a material analogous to bone’s mineral component for orthopaedics applications.
- To find out ways of efficient dispersion of the nanoparticles throughout the nanocomposite
- To find out ways to control the nanocomposite degradation. Scientists will team up with industry partners who have experience in the production of degradable composites and polymers for medical applications.
- To find out ways to scale up production to commercially feasible industrial scale. Only a small number of laboratory nanocomposites have been converted into actual products due to challenges in ensuring constant quality in volume production.
Other members of the project include Andy Parsons (composites), Ed Lester (nanoparticle synthesis), Derek Irvine (polymer synthesis), David Grant (bioengineering), and Davide de Focatiis (polymer processing).