First 3D printed human corneas win design award
A technology developed by scientists at Newcastle University allowing human corneas to be 3D printed has won Gold at the 2018 London Design Awards. The technique could be used in the future to ensure an unlimited supply of corneas. As the outermost layer of the human eye, the cornea has an important role in focusing vision. Yet there is a significant shortage of corneas available to transplant, with 10 million people worldwide requiring surgery to prevent corneal blindness as a result of diseases such as trachoma, an infectious eye disorder. In addition, almost 5 million people suffer total blindness due to corneal scarring caused by burns, lacerations, abrasion or disease. The proof-of-concept research published earlier this year reports how stem cells (human corneal stromal cells) from a healthy donor cornea were mixed together with alginate and collagen to create a solution that could be printed, a 'bio-ink'. Using a simple low-cost 3D bio-printer, the bio-ink was successfully extruded in concentric circles to form the shape of a human cornea. It took less than 10 minutes to print. The stem cells were then shown to culture - or grow. The scientists, including Abigail Isaacson from the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, also demonstrated that they could build a cornea to match a patient's unique specifications. The dimensions of the printed tissue were originally taken from an actual cornea. By scanning a patient's eye, they could use the data to rapidly print a cornea which matched the size and shape.
DPA, 3rd December, 2018
C2I 2018: Universal Plasma aims to transform transfusion
The winner in the healthcare and medical category of the Collaborate to Innovate 2018 awards combines textiles and chemistry innovation in a project that could transform transfusion services and help save lives. Now known as Universal Plasma and spearheaded by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), the project began life as Sanguis, a collaboration led by Nonwovens Innovation & Research Institute (NIRI), a Leeds-based company that develops innovative textiles products and prototypes for a variety of sectors. Working in partnership with biomed company Macopharma and NHSBT, NIRI developed a new type of filter that removes ABO antibodies from donated human plasma, creating universal plasma that can be used to treat anyone. NHSBT is now leading the next phase of the project, testing to ensure the filter meets the clinical requirements and patient safety, while Macopharma and NIRI are exploring how the technology can be scaled for commercialisation. Details some of the runners-up in this category.
Conductive polymer set for leap from flexi-phones to medical sensors
New polymer film that could make smartphones more bendable may one day be used to create tailor-made sensors that could non-invasively monitor biomedical metrics. The glass-like polymer being developed at Purdue University – made from long chains that contain radical groups – conducts electricity for transparent and flexible electronics. It is claimed that with the look and feel of glass, the polymer film can be inexpensively and sustainably produced on a large scale as it originates from earth-abundant materials. According to Purdue, its cost effectiveness also has advantages over polymers already used for electronics that rely on expensive chemistry and chemical doping to achieve high conductivity. The Purdue researchers are working to use this new polymer film to create tailor-made sensors that could non-invasively monitor glucose levels, heart rate or other biomedical metrics. The film could be modified, using specific molecules or ions, to target and selectively interact with various biological components inside the body. It could be worn as a nearly invisible patch on the skin.
Personalised heart simulations could improve cardiac care
Working with £93,000 funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), researchers at King's College London have taken the first steps towards developing models designed to optimise catheter ablation, a procedure used to correct atrial fibrillation, a condition which causes abnormal heart rhythms. Atrial fibrillation – which affects the left atrium (or upper chamber) of the heart – reduces blood supply, leading to dizziness, breathlessness and fatigue, and increases the risk of a stroke. Every year, around 10,000 people in the UK have a catheter inserted in order to treat the condition using radiofrequency energy. But the procedure is not always effective, there is a small risk of it causing a stroke or death, and the condition often recurs. The personalised computer models aim to increase the effectiveness of this procedure by making it possible to explore, in advance, different strategies for its use geared to the specific needs of individual patients. With 16,000 catheter ablation procedures performed in the UK every year the group estimates that the technology could save the NHS £20M per year. Developed using skills in computational modelling, software development and image processing, and based on detailed data about the patient's heart obtained through medical imaging, the models depict tissue condition and blood flow, and enable simulation of around 10 cardiac cycles lasting a few seconds in total.
Prosthetic implant provides realistic wrist movement to amputees
Users of prosthetic hands often find one common movement particularly difficult or even impossible: pronation and supination. These are the movements enabled through rotation of the wrist, such as turning the hand from palm down to palm up on a flat surface. Max Ortiz Catalan of the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has been addressing the problem, and describes in a paper in the journal IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering a new type of prosthetic implant which enables a realistic pronation and supination movement. This prosthetic implant is attached to the user by osseointegration: that is, the attachment points are surgically implanted directly into the patient's radius and ulna. The implant is then attached to a wrist-like artificial joint that acts as an interface between the surgical implant and a prosthetic hand. This allows the user's remaining skeletal structure and musculature to be used in the same fashion as those of an able-bodied person. The prosthetic implant was developed by Swedish-based medical technology company Integrum AB, which was a partner in Ortiz Catalan's research.