Nanotechnology grant

Researchers at Swansea University have been awarded an EPSRC grant to find ways of applying nanotechnology in healthcare. The Grand Challenge in Nanotechnology for Healthcare project has been awarded £1.9m over a period of three years.

The aim of the research programme is to improve the sensitivity of early clot detection, said lead investigator Rhodri Williams, of Swansea University’s School of Engineering.

‘This will allow more accurate assessment of abnormalities and the targeting of clots at the earliest stage of development,’ he said. ‘The project team, drawn from Swansea University’s School of Engineering, School of Medicine and School of Physical Science’s computer science department, will address thromboembolic disease and associated blood coagulation abnormalities that cause significant disease and death in Western society.’

The Grand Challenge in Nanotechnology for Healthcare project will advance Williams’ research in blood-clot detection by linking this work with the ultra-sensitive nanomaterials development being undertaken at Swansea University’s Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre.

The project aims to lay the foundations for a point-of-care diagnostic system that, eventually, will provide at-risk patients with a safe and easy-to-use device for monitoring clots. The Clinical Haemorheology Laboratory, located at the ABM University NHS Trust’s Morriston Hospital in Wales, will be working with the Swansea researchers.

The project could also provide a new technological basis for thromboembolic disease screening. Thromboembolism is the formation in a blood vessel of a clot (thrombus) that breaks loose and is carried by the blood stream to plug another vessel. The clot may plug a vessel in the lungs (pulmonary embolism), brain (stroke), gastrointestinal tract, kidneys or leg.

The team draws together experts in the field of nanosensors, human-device interaction, printing technologies, surface characterisation, biopolymer rheology and blood coagulation.

The project also involves collaboration with experts in drug delivery research at the University of London’s School of Pharmacy.

‘The Swansea-London team is hoping to translate powerful nanotechnologies and reap benefits against one of the major killer pathologies in our society,’ said Kostas Kostarelos, who leads the team at the University of London. ‘Any incremental improvement we can offer for the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of stroke will be an achievement.’

An international advisory panel has been formed to help guide and support the team. UK representatives include Marc Clement, the honorary chair of medical innovation at Swansea University, and Stephen Bain, director of research at the ABMU NHS Trust.