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Breakthrough could improve recovery for heart attack and burns patients

Researchers from AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science institute have developed a new biomaterial which is capable of both regenerating tissues which respond to electrical stimuli (such as the nerves, spinal cord, heart, brain and muscles) as well as eliminating infection – an ever-growing problem in hospitals. This could enable enhanced recovery for heart attack and burn patients. The new study is published in Advanced Materials*, a leading international materials science journal. The study was led by AMBER researchers at RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and Eberhard Karls University in Germany.

This new material could help to improve quality of life for heart attack survivors, as scar tissue build-up can decrease heart function. An electroconductive biomaterial could bypass damaged regions of the heart and restore functional activity.

For people with extensive nerve damage, there are currently very limited options in terms of repairing nerve injuries extending beyond two centimetres. However, by combining a biomaterial with proven regenerative capacity, like collagen, with a material that can carry an electrical stimulus, it may be possible to transmit electrical signals across damaged tissue, resulting in functional restoration of the affected area. This concept may also have potential in regenerative capabilities of the spinal cord and other areas including the brain.

The new material developed by the multidisciplinary research team is composed of collagen (the most abundant protein of the human body which has known regenerative potential and can support the body’s cells) and graphene (the world’s thinnest material which is known to have unique mechanical and electrical properties) resulting in an electroconductive ‘biohybrid’ combining the beneficial properties of both materials –resulting in a material which is mechanically stronger, with increased electrical conductivity.

This ‘biohybrid’ material has been shown to enhance cell growth and, when electrical stimulation is applied, directs cardiac cells to respond and align in the direction of the electrical impulse. Furthermore, the material prevents bacterial attachment, a hugely favourable characteristic which can be applied in the development of next generation antimicrobial medical devices. The surface roughness of the material, induced by the introduction of graphene, causes bacterial walls to be burst while simultaneously allowing the heart cells to multiply and grow.

Professor Fergal O’Brien, Head of the Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG) in the Department of Anatomy in RCSI, Deputy Director of AMBER and lead Investigator on the project said, “Many cells and tissues in the body are responsive to electrical stimulation but electroconductive materials are limited because they may kill cells or cause infection. Despite progress in biomaterials science for some applications, there has been limited success in treating tissues of the heart and nervous system. There are currently no solutions for very large nerve defects and large areas of heart wall damage.

We are very excited by the potential of this material for cardiac applications but the capacity of the material to deliver physiological electrical stimuli while limiting infection suggests it might have potential in a number of other indications such as repairing damaged peripheral nerves or perhaps even spinal cord. The technology also has potential applications where external devices such as biosensors and devices might interface with the body.

This type of collaborative research is only possible in a centre like AMBER where leading researchers from different disciplines get to share ideas and work in partnership together.”

Professor Jonathan Coleman, Principal Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics said, “It is remarkable to work with my AMBER colleagues in RCSI, combining bioengineering and physics to find a new application for the graphene being produced in our labs. Recently our team have pioneered the development of a technique to produce large quantities of pristine graphene at low cost and so it is significant that we are in a position to now create this new biomaterial using this wonder material.”

The work was conducted by AMBER and RCSI TERG post-doctoral researcher, Dr Alan Ryan, first author on the paper with Dr Cathal Kearney, an AMBER senior research fellow and lecturer in RCSI in partnership with multi-disciplinary team of researchers based in RCSI, Trinity and Professor Katja Schenke-Layland’s laboratory in Eberhard Karls University Tübingen in Germany, where the electrical stimulation research was carried out.

Professor Michael Morris, Director of AMBER, said, “Today’s announcement about this new biomaterial demonstrates our track record of pushing the boundaries of science to discover real solutions for people. We will continue to carry out excellent research that has real societal impact, with this technology potentially improving the lives of thousands of people.”

* http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201706442/full

Additive Manufacturing is a revolutionary technology that is changing the face of innovation a market projected to be worth over 200 billion US dollars

AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science research centre headquartered at Trinity College Dublin, today announced a new additive manufacturing (AM, commonly known as 3D printing) research laboratory. The AR-Lab (Additive Research Laboratory) was established with a €4.3 million investment from Science Foundation Ireland and the European Research Council as well as strategic funding from Trinity and the institutional support these large initiatives require. The AR-Lab will focus on world-leading research that will innovate new materials, printing methods and extend the capability of 2D and 3D printing to enable revolutionary, new medical, electronic, mechanical, optical, acoustic, heat transfer, and sensing devices.

Additive manufacturing refers to technology that can produce 3 dimensional objects via layer by layer deposition of materials. This approach allows the fabrication of complex shapes, forms and designs without the need for complex moulds, forming or subtractive shaping. It will be a major driver of technologies such as the internet-of-things, wearable and flexible devices as well as personalised healthcare products. Additive manufacturing will change how goods are produced in the future with a shift in emphasis from mass production to mass customisation where bespoke products can be manufactured at scale for low cost. AMBER will partner with existing and new industry partners enabling next generation products from innovative SMEs and Multinationals. AMBER’s AR-Lab features a combination of both Irish and world first equipment and 3D printers – allowing industry a unique partnership opportunity.

The SFI Research Centre AMBER has invested in a suite of 3D printing technologies which spans the full spectrum of materials from ceramics, metals to polymers and biomaterials. The ability to 3D print ceramic materials is of particular interest. These materials have application in a wide range of sectors from telecommunications to biomedical implants but, due to current constraints on manufacturing techniques, are limited in their use and performance. For example, it is envisioned that advanced free-form lightweight 3D printed ceramic objects could ultimately be used in the future as orthopedic implants designed to promote tissue and bone growth. Other applications for AM can be found in aerospace, defence, automotive, healthcare, and other industries. This is due to its many advantages, including design flexibility, product customisation, and minimisation of material waste, compared to subtractive manufacturing. The use of additive manufacturing also has the potential to add significant advancement to medical device development, as geometries will no longer be constrained to the limited base stock (i.e. flats sheets or circular tubes) that components are machined from.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD commented, “Additive manufacturing has grown from strength to strength in the last number of years and I am delighted to see Ireland once again keeping pace with these disruptive technologies. AMBER’s new additive research lab highlights another new market entry for Ireland – one of crucial importance for industry in the future. With potential applications in industries such as healthcare and automotive, this is another great opportunity for Ireland to grow our global reputation for excellent and impactful research.”

Dr Patrick Prendergast, Trinity’s Provost said, “Additive manufacturing is being hailed as part of the ‘fourth industrial revolution”, marked by emerging technologies including nanotechnology, bio-technology, and the internet of things. However, the materials and techniques needed to progress from a niche area into widespread application requires intense research. The opening of this laboratory Trinity is an exciting development and will allow AMBER to undertake world leading research that will sponsor innovation and allow Ireland to exploit the technologies to deliver economic and societal benefits for the country

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the establishment of a new additive manufacturing laboratory at the AMBER SFI Research Centre through the latest SFI Infrastructure Call. Ireland has built a reputation for cutting edge science and engineering and now attracts top international talent from across the globe. We are also educating the next generation of innovators here. However, this knowledge base must be underpinned by state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Such infrastructure, provided by Science Foundation Ireland, provides the scientific community with the platforms they require for continued progress and achievement.”

Professor Michael Morris, AMBER Director said, “AMBER’s AR-Lab will be a pivotal component of AMBER’s research focused on the fundamental material science challenges associated with 3D printing e.g. the range and complexity of the materials that can be printed, the size of these features and how a number of material sets can be integrated into a functioning device. We have invested in a customised suite of 3D printing technology which spans the full spectrum of materials from ceramics and metals to polymers and biomaterials. This investment will play a leading role in the emerging 3D printing national research ecosystem. It will enable AMBER to build on our foundation of innovative excellence in materials science and become leaders in this emerging technology which is critical to the manufacturing industries that support the Irish economy.

The size of the AM market is projected to reach $0.2 to 0.6 trillion (US Dollars) by 2025, with between 30 - 65% cost savings for the industrial sectors adopting it.

AMBER’s AR-Lab has been enabled by a €3.3 million award from SFI as part of their Research Infrastructure program and an additional €1 million investment from the European Research Council.

AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre based at Trinity College Dublin have recently added a Brabender 20mm twin screw compounding extruder to their growing capability in polymer and composite materials development.

Supplied via Engelmann & Buckham Ltd, the Brabender 20/40D segmented Twin extruder is equipped with two Brabender gravimetric feeders and a side feeder. Absolute control over the primary polymer and additives will ensure that speciality compounds can be produced in pellet form or thin film and reproduced with an exceptional level of precision and repeatability.

Mark Galliver of Engelmann & Buckham, who oversaw the installation said, “This Brabender extruder enhances AMBER’s existing capability allowing them to reliably produce high-end polymer composites on the kilogram scale.”

The Brabender addresses a current gap in Ireland in the ability to translate polymer composite research from lab to pilot scale which is essential for the medical device sector who require new materials in sufficient quantities for early stage product development and testing.

Prof Michael Morris, Director of AMBER said, “The tool will also complement our recent investment in 3D printing and additive manufacturing infrastructure which will be launched in early 2018. With the Brabender extruder, our lead researcher Dr. Ramesh Babu will have the capability to produce custom made filaments for a polymer based 3D printing technique known as Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). This will open up the technique to a range of new materials enabling 3D printed objects with properties such as enhanced mechanical strength and electrical and sensing functionality. Our vision is to become a research leader in the development of the materials roadmap enabling 3D printing for future manufacturing technologies.

Collaboration between AMBER and Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc. will transform healthcare delivery for patients and consumers through 3D bioprinting

AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science institute headquartered at Trinity College Dublin, today announced a new strategic collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc. to establish a collaborative laboratory focused on 3D bioprinting. Through the collaboration, AMBER and the Johnson & Johnson 3D Printing Center of Excellence will establish a 3D bioprinting research laboratory at Trinity College Dublin affiliated with AMBER. The company will also engage in research projects focused initially in orthopaedics and in the long-term, offer its internal scientific experts as adjunct professors and engage in staff exchanges. The new Global Centre of Excellence for 3D bioprinting will transform healthcare delivery for patients and consumers and is due to be operational by the end of 2018.

The announcement was welcomed by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD who stated, “Because of the fantastic success of the SFI Research Centre, AMBER, Ireland has a worldwide reputation for excellence in 3D bioprinting and is a global leader in materials science. I am delighted to welcome this new collaboration and look forward to its success moving forward.”

“Transforming healthcare delivery for patients and consumers through 3D printing technology requires collaboration with experts from around the world,” said Wim Appelo, Vice President Supply Chain, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies. “Our work with AMBER will advance opportunities to design and deliver a broad range of personalised, bioprinted healthcare solutions for the patients and consumers we serve every day.”

The focus for the new research laboratory will be 3D bioprinting, co-led by AMBER’s Professor Daniel Kelly and Joseph Ault, Senior Fellow, Lead API and Bioprinting at Johnson & Johnson. The collaborative laboratory will establish a work space for Johnson & Johnson scientists and Trinity academicians to engage in collaborative research. 3D bioprinting has emerged as a promising technology for engineering 3D ‘living’ biological tissues for promoting bone and tissue regeneration.

Professor Michael Morris, AMBER Director said, “This lab is the result of a shared vision to create a global centre of excellence for 3D bioprinting within the Centre. This has been made possible because of the calibre of our world leading academics, state of the art equipment and supporting facilities and infrastructure. Building on our long-standing collaboration with DePuy Synthes in Ireland, I am confident that this engagement will become the prototypical strategic partnership for AMBER as the Centre moves into the next funding cycle. Our intent is to identify and grow similar engagements of equivalent scale and type across the ICT and manufacturing sectors.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said, “Science Foundation Ireland invests in world-class scientific research with deep and significant enterprise engagement, excellence and impact. I very much welcome this promising collaboration between AMBER and Johnson & Johnson Services, which builds on Ireland’s international reputation for research excellence and presents us with an important opportunity to promote the sharing of knowledge and expertise between industry and academia – in material sciences and beyond.”

The laboratory will be made available to other Principal Investigators, postgraduate and undergraduate students to carry out project work outside of the direct collaborative activity with Professor Kelly. This will benefit students by providing exposure to industry and the potential to source industry-defined projects. In addition, Johnson & Johnson scientists will be available to provide training and education to students and staff.

The AMBER team has identified a 100m2 space within the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI) building, comprising lab area suitable for working with bioprinting and cell and tissue culture and meeting and office space for 12 people. In addition to the new lab, the investment will enable a number of individual research projects and long-term scale-up to include adjunct professorships and staff exchange.

Work on the new laboratory will begin in Q1 2018, with Trinity graduate and AMBER postdoctoral researcher Dr Gráinne Cunniffe employed by Johnson & Johnson as project manager for the lab. AMBER will provide full support to the project in terms of project management, funding diversification support, recruitment and contract support as is standard with the Centre’s operating model.

This collaboration is strongly aligned with AMBER’S vision to be a world leader in bioengineering and Trinity’s vision to establish a new Engineering, Energy and Environment (E3) Institute and a technology campus at Dublin’s Grand Canal to be an incubation site for companies to embed significant research and innovation activities at the University and engage in multi-faculty collaborations.