CNH Dentistry Event
Centre for NanoHealth conducts all-day Dentistry Event
3rd March 2014
Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth (CNH) recently conducted an all-day Dentistry Event, featuring speakers from the dental industry, the NHS, and academia. Hosted by the Centre for NanoHealth, the event offered networking opportunities, as well as information on the latest technological developments within the dentistry sector.
Established in 2009, the CNH is an open innovation environment facilitating companies, researchers, NHS clinicians and academics to develop new generation healthcare using Nanotechnology.
The event, attended by more than thirty dentists from across Wales, was chaired by Dr Paul Lewis, Associate Professor at Swansea University. Delegates were able to hear presentations from leading consultants, Mr Conor Marnane, a Consultant in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery at Singleton Hospital and Mr James Owens, a Consultant in Restorative Dentistry and Oral Rehabilitation at Morriston Hospital.
Along with Dr Georgina Menzies, a researcher based in the CNH at Swansea University, topics discussed included the Human Papilloma Virus and the oral/ oropharyngeal cancer epidemic, post-surgical oral rehabilitation and early detection of oropharyngeal and laryngeal cancer by optical spectroscopy.
Mr Conor Marnane said “This event provided a forum to network and share educational opportunities with dental and university colleagues. As a Head and Neck Surgeon, I was able to take this opportunity to present an update in new developments in the field of oral cancer diagnosis and treatment. Dental surgeons have an important role to play in the early diagnosis of oral cancers and an event like this, where so many dental surgeons are together, provided an excellent opportunity for education and discussion on this important and increasingly common health problem. “
Mr Marnane also stated “We also took opportunity to present to the attendees the results of a potentially ground breaking collaborative research project that has been carried out by the Centre for Nanohealth at Swansea University and the ENT department in Singleton Hospital into a novel method of early diagnosis of cancer using samples of saliva that could one day provide a cheap simple way of screening for oral cancer in a dental surgery or a GP practice.”
Dental technology was highlighted in the event’s afternoon sessions. Dr Owen Guy presented on the latest research and collaborative opportunities taking place at the CNH, followed by a tour of the facilities where delegates were able to view first-hand the state-of-the-art equipment and meet leading researchers working at the centre. The tour included visiting the category 2 biomedical suite of laboratories offering cell and molecular biology capabilities, including confocal microscopy, and high-throughput/ high-content analytical systems, microbiology, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering and nano-genotoxicology.
Gareth Tomkinson from Renishaw then gave a demonstration on CAD/CAM Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing and the use of 3D printing in dentistry. With its expanding list of high-precision measurement and manufacturing technologies, Renishaw is fast becoming a major dental framework and equipment supplier. This was followed by a demonstration by Jackie Cooper, UK Laser Product Manager at Henry Schein Dental, on how laser technology is used in dentistry.
Following the event, Mr James Owens said: “It was an excellently run event combining current dental practice and cutting edge new technologies. I was impressed with the CNH facility and the amount of innovative work being carried out there”.
Dr Chris Wright talks on the future to Biomaterials
The field of biomaterials is advancing at a rapid pace arguably a legacy of developments within the field of nanotechnology that have established methods to fabricate, modify and characterise biomaterials and bioprocesses at scales previously not possible. This is accompanied by the exciting developments we are witnessing, almost every week, in the fields of tissue engineering and cell therapies. Biomaterials research will need to maintain its momentum in order for the realisation of the full potential of regenerative medicine. Notable recent research examples include the construction of living webs and tissue through the electro spinning of cells within a biodegradable polymer scaffold, the bioprinting of cells for tissue or food and the use of nanotopographical patterns on biomedical plastic to differentiate bone cells from human embryonic stem cells.
A lot of research endeavour continues to create biomaterials with increased functionality in terms of nanoscale morphology coupled with the control of the biomaterial surface’s chemical and physical interactions. The spatial resolution of functionality is constantly improving with advances in polymer and macromolecular immobilisation techniques. The ultimate aims of this research are to improve the biocompatibility, immune system stealth, drug release and in the future provide reporting on the disease state and functioning of the biomaterial construct.
Electrospinning NanoSpider at CNH
To provide example of current trends in biomaterials research I can look to Swansea University and within the Centre for NanoHealth where we have focussed activity on the pipeline of biomaterial development from fundamental research and the conception of novel systems to optimisation and scale up. We have recently established an electrospinning R & D resource that builds on our rheometry and microscopy characterisation capabilities within nanotechnology. We use a standard needle electrospinning system to create novel biomaterial scaffolds such as wound dressings with nanoparticles of controlled morphology immobilised in nanofibres to fight bacterial infection (Figure 1) and nano fibres with a sheath and a core of different materials for drug delivery and tissue engineering (Figure 2). In order to scale up the fabrication process we are now exploiting bowl electrospinnning (Nanospider, Elmarco), which allows scaffold production on a much larger scale for commercialisation.
The future of biomaterials is very promising and there are some key fields that will provide some exciting achievements in the near future. The influence of the mechanical properties of the biomaterial substrata on stem cell differentiation has been reported and more recently the induction of stem cell plasticity by the control of the culture environment’s acidity. We can conjecture that researchers will take the next step and examine the plasticity of stem cells as controlled by their physical and biochemical interaction with the biomaterial that houses them. Indeed, as the production of stem cells becomes easier then production of personalised bespoke biomaterials will be enabled by the coating or construction of implants with the patient’s own cells, thuavoiding immune response problems. 3D printing is now ubiquitous and the field of biomaterials is no exception, however the technology is moving rapidly from production of prototype medical implant structures to full scale production. As in every field of engineering it is intriguing to speculate how the improved availability of 3 D printing will impact on biomaterial research, industry and application.
Figure 1 Scanning electron microscopy image of silver nanoparticles, of controllable size, captured in a polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) nanofibre fibre as part of a novel wound dressing biomaterial (Courtesy of L.Burke, Swansea University).
Figure 2 Scanning electron microscopy image of a coaxial spun tissue engineering scaffold showing the chitosan sheath and polyethylene oxide (PEO) fibre core (Courtesy of L.Burke, Swansea University).
3 February 2014
New EPSRC Project
Prof. Huw Summers is leading a new EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Science Research Council) funded project developing an “Integrated III-V Haemocytometer” including £490k worth of new equipment.
The assessment of human health from analysis of blood samples is one of the most widespread medical diagnostic procedures; with thousands of patients providing samples every day in hundreds of clinics and surgeries across the UK. However, it remains a slow process because samples have to be sent to a limited number of specialist central services in health trusts, with a turn-around of days between sample acquisition and assessment delivery. It is expensive, both in terms of direct cost of the analysis and downstream costs due to deterioration of patient health as a result of the time delay in accessing results.
Prof. Huw Summers is proposing a capillary driven, microscale disposable chip instrument for non-technical users that provides the established and understood diagnostic parameters. The basic device will consist of lasers and detectors integrated around a fluid channel to facilitate counting, scattering and wavelength dependent absorption measurements. This will differentiate red blood cells from white blood cells, discriminate between the main white blood cell types - monocyte, lymphocyte, neutrophil and granulocyte - and provide cell counts of these sub groups. Stage 2 of the project builds on the same technology platform to enhance sensitivity and add functionality by making the cell under test an active part of the laser thus maximising light / cell interaction. In stage 3, the research team will label cells with fluorescent dye attached to metal particles (provided by Keyes group) and increase the absorption of particular cells, by up to 6 orders of magnitude, and also access fluorescent lifetime measurements (using an approach we have patented) allowing the analysis of cell function as well as cell discrimination. The team have blood analysis expertise within the project to maximise the benefits of stage 1 and co-workers focussed on cell cycle and anti-cancer research will interact and maximise the benefits of the device that goes well beyond current blood test capability.
The microscale system being developed offers a number of advantages:
- Micro scaling reduces the volume of blood required changing the way blood-based diagnostics are used. Immediate and quasi-continuous monitoring of the haematological state is feasible and can be used in acute situations such as surgery or child birth. This also offers, with further development, a realistic route to continuous monitoring during everyday life.
- Semiconductor micro fabrication provides the route to mass manufacture of low cost systems. Shifts the cost of blood testing from technician to test kit and introduces a distributed cost model (pay per kit) rather than a single, major capital investment.
- Allows disposable chip format and provides uniformity and repeatability, contributing to the removal of the need for specialist operator - use at point of care, e.g. developing world.
This will be achieved by exploiting the properties of a quantum dot semiconductor system that has been developed in-house and which provides particular advantages for integration and for laser based sensing at relevant wavelengths (a major one being the sensitivity to small changes in optical loss).
Huw states, “In addition to the significant medical benefits resulting from the ability to widely deploy, low cost and enhanced clinical functionality devices , we also see a significant commercial benefit to the UK, with an identified UK manufacturing supply chain.” The project brings together a wide range of complementary experience, including semiconductor device design, fabrication and characterisation, microfluidics, systems analysis and data handling, blood analysis and cytometry and biophotonics and clinical validation.
3 February 2014
Fight Against Infection
Researchers at Swansea recruit seaweed in fight against infection (January 2014)
The disease-fighting qualities of seaweed compounds are being investigated by an international network of scientists including experts from Swansea University, Cardiff University and AlgiPharma AS with trials for new inhalation therapies for cystic fibrosis sufferers already underway.
As part of a four-year programme worth £5.4M, awarded by the Norwegian Research Council, researchers are employing novel approaches to synthesise and test alginate molecules (components of seaweed) to design a new generation of drug compounds capable of improving the effectiveness of antibiotics.
Research conducted by the universities has shown that these seaweed compounds are capable of combating multi-drug resistant infections and can change the physical structure of sputum (phlegm) in diseased patients.
Harnessing this knowledge, scientists have developed a new inhalation therapy that is being tested on cystic fibrosis patients with the aim of improving their breathing – the condition affects 10,000 people in the UK alone and leads to sufferers being hospitalised up to three times a year.
The new therapeutic could also be used in other more common respiratory diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is reported to affect over 1 million sufferers in the UK.
Studies are also paving the way towards improved treatment of chronic non-healing skin wounds and multi-drug resistant infections, such as MRSA. These seaweed compounds are also effective against organisms that cause more benign conditions like gum disease.
Alginates are normal components of seaweed, like laver-bread, and have been used as gelling agents in food and healthcare industries for many years. However, the alginate being studied in this programme of research has never been used before to combat infectious diseases.
Studies of how the alginates improve breathing in COPD and cystic fibrosis are being performed by a team led by Dr Paul Lewis, Associate Professor from the Biomedical Informatics Group, Swansea University, using the supercomputing power of High Performance Computing (HPC) Wales. The direct effects of these agents on bacteria and sputum are being investigated by Dr Chris Wright, Director of the Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre at Swansea University and Dr Karl Hawkins, Associate Professor at the College of Medicine, Swansea University.
Dr Paul Lewis said: “We are able to carry out this research using state-of-the art technologies through the Centre for NanoHealth at Swansea University and a partnership with HPC Wales.”
Dr Chris Wright said: "This is a very rewarding and exciting collaboration that brings together clinicians, life scientists and engineers to work on the development and optimisation of these new alginate therapeutics which offer tremendous potential for the future of health care."
The research has been principally funded by AlgiPharma AS, a Norwegian biopharmaceutical company, who have in turn received significant project and programme grant funding contributions from the European Union (Eurostars programme); the US Department of Defence; Innovation Norway; Norwegian Research Council; the UK Technology Strategy Board and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of the US.