R&D to help the UK become a world-leader in rehabilitation

In the latest RehabilitationMatters article, Dr Andrew Capel looks at the opportunities for R&D and innovation in rehabilitation that the NRC will bring, using an example of a pioneering research project he is working on.

"As an academic, I live and breathe research and development. So I may be biased when I say it’s a very exciting time to be working in this space. Ever-advancing technology is increasing the potential scope of research – and rehabilitation is one area where we have a particularly fantastic opportunity to do something special in the UK.

"Loughborough University is one of the lead academic partners for the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) alongside the University of Nottingham. Through working with various programmes, research groups and networks I’m already seeing the great opportunities we have through the NRC to raise the bar and make a meaningful difference across clinical rehabilitation.

"Earlier this year, Loughborough University was pleased to be awarded a £1 million grant by the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs – Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) as part of funding for ready-to-use products and services to replace, reduce and refine animal use in clinical studies.

"To deliver this project, I am working alongside my colleague Professor Mark Lewis – the University’s academic lead for the NRC – to develop lab grown tissues that mimic human musculoskeletal anatomy. This will allow us to model human injury and regeneration, providing researchers with a tool to develop and test potential new therapies, and ultimately help to reduce the use of animals in biological research.

"During the research project we will be working with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), where we will model the impact of acoustic blast injuries (recreating battlefield trauma) on form and function by using the human tissues we create in the lab. It is not possible to model this type of injury within humans, and therefore this research will provide a platform from which we can begin to understand how these injuries occur, allowing new therapies and rehabilitative practices to be developed, and ultimately help to improve outcomes for patients who have suffered serious injury.

"This is an area in which defence medicine has lots of experience so we’re looking to learn from them and improve our understanding of the impacts of acoustic blast injury.

"It is this sharing and learning that is so central to R&D and innovation, and it is what excites me most about the NRC. Best practice from international rehabilitation facilities have been applied to the NRC from the state-of-the-art equipment to the design of the buildings, while the opportunities to share knowledge, expertise and innovation from defence medicine can be maximised given that the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) is just a matter of metres away on the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate.

"Equally, integrating the clinical and academic space and facilities within the NRC brings many benefits for research and development, and I can’t wait to make use of the facilities once the NRC is up and running.
Through the NRC, we can be world-leaders in pioneering new technologies and treatments for rehabilitation. That has to be good for patients, good for medical science, and good for the UK as a whole. I’m looking forward to playing my part."

More Rehabilitation Matters articles can be found on the National Rehabilitation Centre LinkedIn page.