My project combined tissue engineering and 3D bio printing.
Coming from an engineering (biomedical) background, to me, this combination presented the perfect mix of engineering and medicine.
My PhD project was on wound healing nanoparticles for Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa in which I published seven research and review articles. My aim is to build on this research and develop smart synthetic/organic materials for applications in chronic wound healing.
My plans are to continue as an independent researcher on the path to becoming an accomplished scientist and academic. To do this, I have put together a cohesive range of goals that include training activities, publications, collaborators, and research projects that will serve as my toolbox to help me get on the academic ladder. One of the immediate objectives is to reach a professional level of lecturing and supervision skills, another is to aim for high impact publications, to significantly improve my personal and working relationship with my peers, students, line-managers and mentors, get involved in conference, symposium and event organisation to add new connections to my network, and finally to apply for independent grants or funding that will help me to achieve my independence.
Brief description of research project
The complexity of biological tissues and organs is not limited to chemical and biological compositions but also in structure and configuration. Although significant achievements have been made using three-dimensional scaffolds for certain tissues, more complex structures such as liver, kidneys and heart are more difficult to reproduce. It is thus important that for efficient replication of tissues and organs, smart and computerised methods of fabrication are used. Three-dimensional printing offers the capability to fabricate highly complex and intricate anatomical structures that would not be possible by any other method. A major challenge of using 3D printing, particularly for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine is finding the right material or materials combination for efficient printing, mechanical properties and biocompatibility.
While natural hydrogels are largely considered to be the most effective forms of chronic wound therapy, safety concerns and difficulty in scale-up continue as potential constraints natural hydrogel therapies. Thus, the design and synthesis of synthetic hydrogels with well-defined compositions, architectures, and functionalities that promote cell survival and proliferation is a challenging task in materials science.
Synthetic polymers have emerged as an important alternative for fabricating tissue substitutes and wound dressings because they can be molecularly tailored to have vast array of molecular weights, block structures, active functional groups, and mechanical properties.I used 3D printing to try and construct structurally relevant skin substitutes to treat wounds of patients with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB). In the first 12 months of my CASCADE-FELLOWS project, I collaborated with a polymer chemistry group at University College Dublin (Dr. Wenxin Wang) to synthesize a multi-responsive polymer that can be used to 3D print skin equivalents to treat wounds of RDEB. The mechanical properties, bioactive group immobilisation have been studied. The results suggest that the polymer, although does not precisely mimic the skin in terms of mechanical properties, can support cells within its structure for more than 14 days and can be easily printed into complex 3D structures. In the last year of the fellowship, I worked on optimising the polymer’s phase-transitioning behaviour post printing and to enhance cell attachment and proliferation, I also obtained a collaborative fund to examine the bacteriostatic behaviour of the same polymer (after further chemical modification) particularly towards multi-resistant bacteria (MRSA).
From the fellowship, I was able to present at three different conferences and symposia, have a co-author publication and a primary author publication ready for submission.