£1.2m EPSRC funding utilised in healthcare nanotechnology

Scientists at Nottingham University are using new funding to engineer nanotechnology that could transform the global healthcare industry.

EPSRC funding worth £1.2m will be used as part of a four-year project to develop new ways of manufacturing and scaling up the production of nanoparticles and nanocomposites to be used for drug delivery and bone tissue regeneration.

Prof Andrew Parsons from Nottingham University’s faculty of engineering explained that nanocomposites provide a means of achieving significant improvements in mechanical properties over other materials that are currently being used in certain areas of healthcare.

‘We will be combining hydroxyapatite nanoplatelets with resorbable plastics to create implant materials that will be able to fix things such as fractures,’ said Parsons.

In this way healing can be achieved, followed by the gradual disappearance of the implant and as a result the patient can avoid the need for either a permanent metal implant or secondary surgery to remove the metal.

‘Nanocomposites are well suited to use in this way as the bones of the body are already natural hydroxyapatite nanocomposites,’ said Parsons.

Being mostly plastic, the implant should weigh less than current solutions and generate less interference with X-ray or MRI imaging or metal detectors in airports. ‘Nor will it feel hot or cold in extremes of temperature,’ added Parsons.

‘Ideally we will have demonstrator components available by the end of the project that will be used to develop licence agreements with medical device manufacturers,’ said Parsons. ‘This would begin the process of clinical trials, which can take many years to progress. Realistically, 2020 is the earliest such materials may be available for commercial use.’

Several structures have been made so far but only on a lab scale. Parsons explained that he and his team will look into new methods that can be used for large-scale manufacture.

The project will see Nottingham University collaborate with a number of companies who will provide equipment and consultancy services. Collaborators include Promethean Particles, TESco Associates, Lucite International Speciality Polymers, Evonik Roehm and Thermo Fisher Scientific.