Report lists UK universities’ triumphs in medical research

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Big Ideas for the Future report - .PDF file.

The wealth of research taking place in universities across the UK has been revealed today in a new report that is being jointly published by Universities UK and Research Councils UK (RCUK) to mark Universities Week.

The so-called ‘Big Ideas for the Future’ report looks at 100 research projects from all fields, including science, social sciences, engineering and the arts and humanities.

One interesting aspect of the report is that it covers a number of important developments in the medical field that UK university researchers are involved in.

It highlights, for example, the efforts at University College London to grow human organs that can be used in transplant operations. Researchers there are doing this by using nanomaterials, nanocomposite biomaterials and stem cells. So far, the team has successfully developed coronary artery bypass grafts, a heart valve, nose, ear, trachea, vascular bypass and lachrymal duct.

Another highlight covers the work of Durham University researchers who are using a combination of chemically tailored, low-molecular-weight gels and microemulsions to grow organic crystals of active pharmaceutical ingredients, or drugs. By combining the use of gels and microemulsions, their technology is a green, low-temperature, recyclable alternative to traditional pharmaceutical development.

Also detailed in the report is a portable device designed at Teesside University that can diagnose Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) earlier. The new device works by taking a small drop of blood, which is put into a disposable cartridge. The cartridge is then placed into a reader device that measures the concentration of a d-dimer molecule, which is present in blood and signals if a DVT condition is present.

Not to be left out are the efforts of a group from Imperial College London, which has designed and fabricated a ‘blood factory’ that mimics the architecture and function of the bone marrow in vivo and allows continuous harvesting of red blood cells.

The publication of the report forms part of the second annual Universities Week, which is taking place this week with the aim of increasing public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities.