Multifunctional Materials Manufacturing for Bioengineering Applications
We design and manufacture medical devices tailored to the patient’s needs, not only its physical features to suit an anatomical location (i.e. shape and porous microstructure) but also the chemical composition to activate and program desired cell activity and metabolism.
Replicating the mechanical properties of bone is crucial to avoid ‘stress shielding’ that weakens the bone tissue near the implantation region and a ‘loosening effect’ from the lack of cell tissue integration derived from non-porous interfaces. An optimum balance between bulk mechanical properties and microstructure (i.e. porosity and pore size) must be achieved to ensure successful long-term implantation of orthopaedic devices. Different materials can be used for this application but they need to fulfil design requirements such as stiffness and porosity that mimic those of the host tissue. In the majority of instances this involves lowering the elastic properties of the material by introducing porosity in a judicious way and of a specific morphology. In this way, these engineered cavities promote cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation, which results in anchoring of the implant in place to minimise loosening in the mid- and long-terms. It has been demonstrated that subtle changes in pore shape and size may have significant effects on cell activity. We study the optimal bulk material and pore microarchitecture and morphology for scaffolds to be used in bone grafting for healing or replacing cortical and trabecular bone tissues.
We develop techniques such as sonication foaming, sintering with space holders, templating and additive manufacturing to create scaffolds with an optimised strength-to-weight ratio in metal alloys, polymers or composites. We blend materials to harness their biological potential and biocompatible with the host tissue. We produce porous architectures with features that actively enhance osteoconductive (i.e. the cells-to-be-bone are attracted to the material) and osteogenic (i.e. the cells turn into a mineralised matrix that forms bone) behaviours.
A flexible design and manufacturing method that enables us to produce bespoke compositions and personalised pore architectures aimed at regenerating tissue at a faster pace than traditional clinical solutions. Ultimately this allows the patient to return to a fully active and healthy lifestyle as soon as possible, minimising the burden on National Health Systems and improving general well-being of those affected (the patients, their carers, clinicians and society).
A list of relevant publications can be found in the Loughborough University repository
Dr Carmen Torres-Sanchez - Reader in Multifunctional Materials Manufacturing and Executive Director, Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence
"We are taking a step closer toward mass customisation of medical devices that are bioactive, accelerate healing and alleviate pain for our ageing society."