Accelerating biomaterials to improve our health and well-being

Trauma injuries and disease can leave people with significant and lasting physical disabilities. Innovative medical approaches are essential for helping people live their everyday lives. Manchester is rising to the challenge by helping patients replace damaged or missing biological structures.

Global problem: The debilitating effect of injury and disease

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Physical trauma from injuries or disease can have a lasting detrimental impact on a patient's daily life and their future health and mobility. Our researchers are exploring how to treat this trauma and restore the body's biological function with minimum invasiveness (eg regenerative medicine via novel prosthetics and implants).

An additional priority is developing these new therapies with lower patient risk, improved efficacy and at a lower cost.

Manchester solution: biomedical materials that rebuild our bodies

Manchester’s Advanced Materials in Medicine network, headed by Professor Sarah Cartmell, is leading on biomaterial manufacture.

Biomaterials and biomaterials manufacture are very exciting research areas in the wider development of advanced materials at Manchester – the potential to transform the way we treat patients will deliver major breakthroughs in global health care. 

Professor Sarah Cartmell / Lead for Materials in Medicine activity for the Faculty of Science and Engineering

The group is using electrospinning and rapid nanofiber production technology to create scaffolds from a range of biodegradable polymers.

These devices help create the shape of a component that needs to be regenerated, such as a piece of bone or layers of cartilage. Advanced tissue engineering can then make viable biological replicas using the scaffold as a type of mould.

This regenerative process is achieved by stimulating stem cells to grow into the right shape across the scaffold which then degrades naturally, leaving only regenerated tissue.

Professor Sarah Cartmell is a research champion for the biomedical materials theme supported by the Henry Royce Institute. She says: "I work in tissue engineering, which means I grow pieces of tissue in the lab with a view to implanting them into the patient's body. 

"For example, if a patient has a worn or damaged hip joint, my aim would be to grow a new section of replacement tissue rather than using a piece of metal that would need to be replaced every ten years or so.

"Biomaterials is a very exciting research area in the wider development of advanced materials – its potential to transform the way we treat patients will deliver major breakthroughs in global health care."

Life-changing impacts

The Manchester team has manufactured a range of biological structures including: the layering of biomaterials to reproduce cartilage that can be placed between ‘slipped’ intervertebral discs (IVDs); cardiac components such as heart valves; parts of the peripheral nerves system; and bone structures.

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