The Biomaterials Engineering group (bioMEG) mainly works in the area of materials processing and surface engineering for biomedical applications. Our focus is on both basic research in scientific understanding of materials fabrication processing and applied research in materials solutions for clinical needs. The broad and multidisciplinary research is aimed at developing novel materials and surfaces for dental and orthopaedic implants, tissue engineering scaffolds and medical devices.
Our current research activities include:
1. Cell-instructive surfaces and materials
The development of novel surfaces and materials able to control cell activities and direct their fate is pivotal for engineering smart implants, functional biological tissues, and advanced cell culture systems. It is well known that both chemical and physical cues have a great influence on cell functions of both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, by triggering specific molecular events at the cell–material interface. Our current research projects are focused on physical control of materials and surfaces (i.e. topography and mechanical stiffness) to modulate cells and bacteria. We have created a range of micro/nanopatterns or nanostructures on clinically relevant materials including titanium metals, polymers, ceramics and composites using various micro/nanopatterning techniques e.g. anodisation through mask or template, colloidal lithography, hydrothermal growth, controlled thermal oxidation, electrochemical micromachining and hot embossing. We collaborate with stem cell biologists and microbiologists to study how cells and bacteria respond to different topographies and the underlying mechanisms which regulate cellular and bacterial attachment, spreading and differentiation or colonisation. This enables us to rationally design cell-instructive surfaces for smart implants and to develop novel antimicrobial materials or surfaces without the use of antibiotics or antimicrobials. We also produce nanofibres with tunable mechanical stiffness to direct stem cell differentiation for tissue engineering scaffolds, cell culture substrates and smart implants.
2. Biomimetic and bio-inspired materials
Natural materials such as seashell nacre, human teeth and bones have remarkable mechanical properties. Nevertheless, nature grows these materials from a bottom-up approach using the biologically controlled self-assembly process. We explore a top-down approach from powder processing route for the fabrication of hierarchically structured ceramics and ceramic/polymer or ceramic/metal composites to offer more cost-effective engineering solutions for dentistry, orthopaedics and regenerative medicine. The design and fabrication of ceramics with controlled density, porosity and gradient are based on colloidal chemistry principle. We have used a range of processing techniques including protein foaming, freeze casting, CNC green machining and 3D printing to control the hierarchical structure and properties of ceramics and their composites. The biomimetic materials with graded and anisotropic structures have distinct advantages over conventional engineering materials for dental and orthopaedic applications in tissue repair, restoration, replacement and regeneration.
The Biomaterials Engineering Group is led by Professor Bo Su
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