Medical and Healthcare Technology Research
The University of Bradford has, for many years, been involved in cutting edge research in medical engineering and healthcare technology.
The medical engineering research team at Bradford specialises in clinically orientated translational research and has a strong track record in:
- Clinical biomechanics
- Tissue mechanics
- Vision and mobility
- Neurovascular disease
- Epidemiological modelling
- Infection control
Members of the team have close ties with the Polymer Engineering IRC at Bradford, enabling a holistic approach to the development of new biomaterials and healthcare technologies. As such, the team is a multidisciplinary cluster dedicated to the application of engineering principles and techniques within the medical and healthcare sector.
The medical engineering research team at Bradford is unique in that it brings together engineers, materials scientists and mathematical modelers, with clinicians, biologists and biophysicists, to produce a strong, truly multidisciplinary team, which has collaborative links with hospitals and universities around the world.
The following gives a brief overview of some of the research projects undertaken by the medical engineering research team at Bradford
- Cell-conducting implants for cartilage repair
- Friction and Lubrication Behaviour Of Newly Developed Zirconia Toughened Alumina Ceramic Femoral Heads Vs Carbon Fibre Reinforced Poly Ether Ether Ketone Acetabular Cups And Metal-On-Metal Hip Resurfacing Implants
- Effect of Cannabinoids in Acceleration of Wound Healing of Chondrocyte (cartilage) and Osteoblast (bone) cell mono- and multi-layers
- Biomechanical adaptations and compensatory mechanisms used for locomotion in individuals with lower-limb amputation
Cell-conducting implants for cartilage repair
Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of functional disability and loss of independence in older adults globally, causing significant economic impact (1-2% GDP), yet it is currently incurable. Total joint replacement is a very successful intervention, but it is a highly invasive procedure and implants have a limited lifetime. The development of treatments that can be used to repair the cartilage, rather than remove and replace it, has the potential to improve life for millions of people. These implants require mechanical properties that match the cartilage and underlying bone, they must exchange synovial fluid with the surrounding tissues and be so biocompatible that cells colonize them. Developing osteochondral implants that meet all these requirements is major challenge, requiring a broad range of skills from across the fields of engineering and biology.
Dr Peter Twigg is leading an international effort to develop osteochondral implants with functional gradients, such that they mimic cartilage, bone and, importantly, the transitional zone between them. The project brings together specialists in a number of areas and involves the University of Sheffield, University of Durham, Sichuan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. This work is supported by the Global Priorities initiative, through the Medical Research Council in the UK and the Ministry of Science and Technology in China.
Understanding the nanostructure and nanomechanics of these implants, together with the way cells interact with them, is a significant part of this project. Dr Colin Grant, a graduate of Medical Engineering at Bradford, is using advanced atomic force microscopy techniques to enable pre-clinical optimisation of the structure and properties of these biomaterials. He is interested in collagen based tissue mechanics at the nano-level, from individual collagen fibrils to bulk tissue. Active research projects include work on skin (scar tissue), arteries & veins (including umbilical cord) and ocular tissue (cornea, sclera & retina).
Friction and Lubrication Behaviour of Newly Developed Zirconia Toughened Alumina Ceramic Femoral Heads Vs Carbon Fibre Reinforced Poly Ether Ether Ketone Acetabular Cups And Metal-On-Metal Hip Resurfacing Implants
Friction and lubrication behaviour of zirconia toughened alumina (ZTA) ceramic heads articulating against carbon fibre reinforced polyether-ether-ketone (CFR PEEK) cups with diameters in the range 38-60mm and radial clearances in the range 30-930μm have been developed, investigated and compared with those of metal-on-metal hip resurfacing implants with 38-60mm diameter having diametrical clearances of 100-314µm.
Friction testing is carried out using pure bovine serum and aqueous solutions of bovine serum (BS), with and without carboxy methyl cellulose (CMC), adjusted to a range of viscosities (0.001-0.236 Pas) using a friction hip simulator. Stribeck analysis is carried out to establish the lubricating regime of these artificial joints which suggested mixed lubrication as the dominant mode. This study showed comparable friction factors between both type of joints with ZTA ceramic on CFR PEEK causing higher friction factors for only pure bovine serum and diluted 25vol%BS+75vol% distilled water having viscosities of 0.00157 Pas and 0.00143 Pas, respectively.
Effect of Cannabinoids in Acceleration of Wound Healing of Chondrocyte (cartilage) and Osteoblast (bone) cell mono- and multi-layers
Cannabinoids have been shown to have analgesic, anti-spasmodic, anti-convulsant, anti-tremor, anti-psychotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-emetic and appetite-stimulant properties. Certain cannabinoid extracts have been reported to have anti-inflammatory effects and reduce cartilage damage in arthritic joints. A commercial synthetic cannabinoid was, therefore, used in this work to investigate its effect on cartilage and bone protection and repair using scratch assay wound models. These results confirmed that cannabinoid supplemented and wounded mono- and multi-layers showed complete wound closure after ~ 26 hours suggesting that cannabinoid had positive effect on chondrocyte and osteoblast cell proliferation and migration.
Biomechanical adaptations and compensatory mechanisms used for locomotion in individuals with lower-limb amputation
Prosthetic feet are typically fixed to the prosthetic shin pylon via a rigid attachment or a rubber-snubber (flexible attachment). A recent advance in hydraulic technology has led to the development and use of robust/reliable hydraulic prosthetic ankles. Whilst such devices are proving to be popular with amputees, little is known about how such ankles alter foot function, and subsequently the biomechanics of gait.
Dr Buckley, working in collaboration with Chas A Blatchford & Sons Ltd (UK’s leading prosthetics manufacturer) and clinical staff at the Rehabilitation Medicine Centres in Manchester and Sheffield, is currently investigating how the functioning of a carbon-fibre foot is altered when attached to the prosthetic shin pylon via a hydraulic rather than fixed ankle.
Question being addressed include:
- How does the loading and moment-of-force pattern change when using a hydraulic ankle?
- Does the location of the modal deflection point (representative ankle joint centre) change when using a hydraulic ankle?
- Do gait dynamics (adaptability) improved using a hydraulic ankle?
- What hydraulic resistance is required to optimise gait biomechanics when negotiating slopes and stairs?
In recent years members of the team have been involved in cutting edge projects with the:
- Vascular Diseases Center
- University of Ferrara, Italy
- Buffalo Neuroimaging Analysis Center
- University at Buffalo, USA
- National Yang Ming University of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan
- Key State Laboratory, Sichuan University, China
- Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
As well as working with UK clinicians at:
- Harrogate District Hospital
- St James University Hospital, Leeds
- South Manchester Hospital NHS Trust
- Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
These various collaborative relationships mean the members of the team have expertise in bridging the gap between bioengineering and clinical research.
In addition to its clinical links, the medical engineering research team is involved in collaborative work with a number of industrial partners in producing medical devices and other healthcare related technologies:
- Smith & Nephew Plc
- De Puy Plc
- Surgical Innovations Plc
- Trauson Orthopaedics Ltd
- Dyson Ltd
- Chase A Blatchford & Sons Ltd
Indeed, the Yorkshire Forward Regional Development Agency recently named healthcare technology at Bradford as an industrial ‘cluster' in the Yorkshire region.
In keeping with its high research standing the medical engineering research team has excellent state-of-the-art experimental facilities. These include: a tissue characterization laboratory; a human movement laboratory; a prosthetic joint laboratory; and a biophysics and clinical signals laboratory.
- The tissue characterization laboratory houses a suite of atomic force microscopes, a dynamic nanoindentation system, dynamic mechanical testing, rheological testing and cell culture facilities; which enables the structure and behaviour of tissues and biomaterials to be analysed and characterized at scales from isolated molecules to complete structures. This enables the physical and biological performance of tissues and implants to be better understood.
- The human movement laboratory is a state-of-the-art facility, which enables the gait and movement of patients to be analysed in great detail. In particular, the laboratory incorporates a motion capture facility and biomechanically modelling suite.
- The prosthetic joint laboratory contains several state-of-the-art test machines, including a friction simulator, for evaluating the performance of artificial hip and knee joints. This equipment is frequently used by industrial organisations to evaluate their products.
- The biophysics and clinical signals laboratory has world-class facilities for computational biology and the mathematical modelling of biofluids. It is used for a wide variety of mathematical and computational projects, ranging from genomic processing and epidemiological modelling, to evaluating the fluid biomechanics of the intracranial space.