Biomaterials Engineering

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 biomedical and engineering needs. The broad and multidisciplinary research is aimed at developing novel materials and surfaces for medical devices, implants, tissue engineering scaffolds, as well as strong and damage-tolerant engineering materials.

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. Our current research projects are focused on physical control of materials and surfaces, including surface topography and mechanical stiffness, to modulate cells and bacteria. We have created a range of micro/nanopatterns on clinically relevant materials such as titanium metals, polymers, ceramics and composites using various patterning techniques, e.g., anodisation through mask or block copolymer template, colloidal lithography, hot embossing, hydrothermal growth, controlled thermal oxidation, and electrochemical micromachining. We collaborate with stem cell biologists at the University of Glasgow and microbiologists in the Oral Microbiology group to study how cells and bacteria respond to different topographies and elucidate the underlying mechanisms that regulate cellular and bacterial attachment, spreading and differentiation or colonisation. This enables the rational design of cell-instructive surfaces for smart implants and the development of novel antimicrobial surfaces independent of antimicrobials. We also work on ECM-mimicking nanofibres with tunable morphology and mechanical stiffness to direct stem cell differentiation for tissue engineering scaffolds and cell culture substrates.

2. Biomimetic and bio-inspired materials and composites

Natural materials such as seashell nacre, human teeth and bones have remarkable mechanical properties. Nevertheless, nature grows these materials from a slow bottom-up approach using the biologically controlled self-assembly process. We explore a top-down approach for the fabrication of hierarchically structured ceramics and ceramic/polymer or metal composites to offer cost-effective engineering solutions for biomedical (e.g. dental restorations and orthopaedic implants) and engineering (e.g. armour) applications. The design and fabrication of ceramics with controlled density, pore structure and gradient are based on colloidal powder processing. We use a range of fabrication techniques, including protein foaming, freeze casting, CNC green machining/lamination and 3D printing to control the hierarchical structure and properties of ceramics and their composites. The biomimetic ceramic composites with graded and anisotropic structures have distinct advantages over isotropic engineering materials used in biomedicine. We also investigate biomimetic ceramic/hydrogel composites for hard-soft tissue interfacing in bone-cartilage or bone-tendon tissue repair, replacement, and regeneration.

3. Antimicrobial materials and therapies

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is becoming one of the most urgent global health threats. It is imperative to develop new antimicrobial materials or therapies that are not reliant on antibiotics or drugs and capable of inactivating pathogens efficiently without the risk of inducing resistances. In addition to our work on nanotopography-mediated mechano-bactericidal surfaces, we also develop antimicrobial photodynamic or sonodynamic therapies powered by external stimulus such as light, ultrasound or X-ray. The antimicrobial materials are based on photocatalytic and/or luminescent composite particles or coatings with doped photosensitizers or quantum dots decorated heterojunctions. These novel alternatives are used to combat healthcare-associated infections, including implantable medical devices and high-touch surfaces in hospitals.


The Biomaterials Engineering Group is led by Professor Bo Su

A microCT image of a nacre-like biomimetic ceramic/polymer composite. Image credit: Dr Sana Algharaibeh.
A microCT image of a nacre-like biomimetic ceramic/polymer composite. Image credit: Dr Sana Algharaibeh
A deformed E. coli K12 bacterium on PET nanopillared surface. Image credit: Dr Irill Ishak.
A deformed E.coli K12 bacterium on PET nanopillared surface. Image credit: Dr Irill Ishak
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