Biomimetics and Biomimicry in Engineering

Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’

Congratulations to Fares!

In Info on 2017/04/11 at 6:57 pm

My PhD student Fares Almushref successfully defended his PhD thesis entitled ‘Design and manufacture of engineered titanium-based materials for biomedical applications’.

Congratulations to him for the hard work for the last 3 years and the great effort to get it finished in time for the summer graduation.



Applying International Standards to manage comfort

In Publications on 2017/03/01 at 6:46 pm

Have you ever seen the seat testing device at IKEA? We have used a very similar one in our study.


IKEA durability test

Open cell polymeric foams can be tailored so that the support provided and the level of stability is customised to people’s needs. For those who are bed bound or wheelchair users the selection of a cushion can improve their health and general well being. Avoiding pressure points, managing sores and permitting air permeability are the three main design specifications that patients and clinicians aim to when choosing a cushion. In addition to that, a functional cushion, such as those who support lateral movements (e.g. leaning sideways to grab a glass of water and be helped to return to your initial position without compromising one’s stability) and protect from vibration and impacts (e.g. dropping off a curb), are the focus of our last research project.

My team and I have had the privilege to work with the biomechanics and physiotherapists at the SMART Centre at Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh to study how we can help their clinician colleagues understand cushion performance and therefore aid them with the prescription of these to patients and users.

The results from our study have been presented at the PMG 2012 Conference and recently published by the Assistive Technology journal (free e-prints can be collected here). This has allowed us to interact with the community that is preparing the new version of the ISO16840-2:2007 which will regulate developments in this area.


Assisting mums-to-be in water and house births

In Info on 2014/06/12 at 7:05 pm

The medical device we designed to help midwives monitor labour with minimum interruption has seen the light! Different newspapers and media have been attracted to our invention, a team effort from our colleagues in Univ of Edinburgh and NHS, Heriot-Watt University, and us in Loughborough.

This has been a great enterprising opportunity for us. Being able to form a team with engineers, designers, medics and business developers has been truly rewarding. We all showed great enthusiasm and reached out to understand each others’ ‘language’ so we could bring the project to a fruitful completion. Working with midwives for the development of a new medical device was great because they were able to provide us with insightful input during the design stages, and with useful feedback in the development phase.  We hope the device will help the midwives carry out their work in more comfortable conditions, and for future mothers-to-be to benefit from this device that allows them to experience a more dignifying labour.

The work has been presented at the Perinatal Medicine 2014 (Harrogate International Centre, Monday 9th – Wednesday 11th June 2014).

The press releases can be found here and here

More press material can be found here and here and here.

Engineered metal implants to target cancer cells and eradicate side effects of chemotheraphy

In Publications on 2014/03/06 at 12:12 am

The work done by my colleague Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta and our ‘dream team’ has been published in Nature Communications.

Asier proudly presents to the world the work done using his clever “bioorthogonal” method for activating a prodrug by palladium catalyzed dealkylation. What motivates us is to move towards the eradication of the side effects of chemotheraphy (e.g. depleted immune system, hair loss, tiredness, etc) in the very near future. This is done by focusing the cancer treatment only to the affected area. Like a ‘trojan horse’, in our vision we implant the engineered catalyst carrier first. Then, by a selective activation via oral drugs, we produce the chemo-destructive effect with maximum effect on the targeted area, and minimal negative effects (i.e. death) on healthy tissue.

The technology in a 'nutshell'

The technology in a ‘nutshell’

The full paper can be found here.

The press release by University of Edinburgh can be viewed here.

Asier is an academic fellow at the Edinburgh Cancer Research UK Centre at the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, the University of Edinburgh.

Making sense of standardisation

In Publications on 2013/11/18 at 12:27 am

Standardisation is that useful process that allows us engineers to share a common ‘plane of reference’ on which to base our conversations. It is useful to know that a material (say, a slab of titanium) has the same mechanical properties when it is measured in Loughborough, Sydney, Lima or Granada.

But sometimes standardisation goes too far on the other extreme. The over-translation from observation to technical definitions might turn an ISO norm into a document that is no longer useful for practical purposes. This is particularly risky when ISO norms attempt to tabulate and measure in ‘softer’ areas such as healthcare and rehabilitation.

In a piece of work recently published here, my colleagues from the NHS Scotland SMART Centre and we have restated some practical insight to an ISO norm that guides the characterisation of wheelchair cushions for a better guidance to prescription by clinicians.

Our work has been well received by the practising community and we look forward to continue working with them.

Ref: Hollington J., Hillman S.J., Torres-Sanchez C., Boeckx J., Crossan N., “ISO 16840-2:2007 load deflection and hysteresis measurements for a sample of wheelchair seating cushions”, Medical Engineering & Physics, in press. DOI:10.1016/j.medengphy.2013.10.010 

Meet the midwife!

In Knowledge Transfer on 2013/07/17 at 1:23 pm

And we met a lot of them! on the 28th June we visited the NHS Lothian’s Birth Centre, at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, under the facilitation of our team leader, Dr Fiona Denison. We showed the practising midwives our designs and mock-ups and obtained user-specs from this first workshop of the ‘Waterbirthing Mirror’.

Workshop user-group at the Birth Centre

Workshop user-group at the Birth Centre

It was wonderful to see so many people with so much experience and enthusiasm willing to give us comments, ideas and feedback.
Thanks to Fiona and her team for making our stay so comfortable in their superb facilities at the Birthing Centre.

Water, mirrors, babies and Lego

In Knowledge Transfer on 2013/07/13 at 12:18 pm

These are Natacza and Mark. They are my Summer 2013 Design Team.

Natacza & Mark adventures

Natacza & Mark

Natacza and Mark are working on the ‘Mirror for waterbirths’ project, a collaboration among the Universities of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Loughborough, along with the NHS Lothian, and sponsored by the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation.

This is them doing some lego brainstorming for mechanisms and functional features.


Concept generation well underway. The most difficult bit was explaining the guy at the airport why we were carrying those mock-ups in our hand-luggage.

BOOM Chemistry!!

In Seminars and Keynotes on 2012/12/10 at 12:53 pm

My collaborator Dr Asier Unciti-Broceta, from the MRC/Cancer Research Centre Edinburgh, is presenting at HWU on Wed 12th Dec, at 14:30 in William Arrol 1.11, his work on BOOM activation chemistry. We use that great idea for our developments in new anticancer strategies. Drop by to meet him on Wednesday!. Everyone welcome (whether you are a chemist or not)


Palladium-Sensitive Chemicals and Engineered Pd(0)-Containing Devices to Implement Highly-Specific Probe/Prodrug Activation in Cells and Living Systems


As a novel prodrug / probe approach, our group is pioneering the use of a bioorthogonal organometallic (BOOM) activation strategy to develop spatially-controlled anticancer treatments. Bioorthogonal reactions are selective chemical processes that take place in biological systems, mediated by abiotic reagents, without interfering with the biotic components of the system [1, 2]. The use of bioorthogonal protecting groups that are selectively cleaved by metal catalysis allows to chemically “mask” the functional properties of a drug / fluorescent dye to induce local activation by a catalyst-based “activating device”. We are currently investigating the use of Pd(0)-containing implants (the “activating device”) and the chemical modification of clinically-used anticancer drugs with Pd(0)-sensitive chemical groups to make “BOOM-activated prodrugs”. In this talk the seminal works published in this area [2, 3] and our last results will be presented.


[1] Prescher&Bertozzi. Nature Chem Biol 2005, 1, 13–21; [2] Unciti-Broceta et al. Nature Protocols 2012, 7, 1207–18; [3] Yusop, Unciti-Broceta et al. Nature Chem 2011, 3, 241–245.

Date: 12/12/2012

Venue: Heriot-Watt WA1.11

Start: 14:30 (1hr) and coffee/biscuits

Best Free Paper for our work on Prosthetic Devices

In Knowledge Transfer, Publications, Seminars and Keynotes on 2012/04/23 at 11:47 am

Our collaborators Susan Hillman and James Hollington, from the SMART Centre, NHS Scotland, have been awarded Best Free Paper for our  ‘Clinical Interpretation of ISO 16840-2, Measurements for Wheelchair Seating Cushions’ presentation at the Posture and Mobility Group (PMG) National Training Event.

Their stand also attracted a lot of interest from clinicians, manufacturers and the ISO and BSI committees.

James at the stand with clinicians

This collaborative project is focused on checking the clinical relevance of the BS ISO standard 1640-2:2007 on Wheelchair seating for the determination of physical and mechanical characteristics of devices intended to manage tissue integrity, in this case, wheelchair seat cushions. Our paper can be read here: PMG 2012.

Susan and James discussing our work with colleagues

Congratulations Susan and James!

(More info about the centre)

Post-doc job opportunity announced

In Funding, Info, Jobs & Vacancies on 2010/05/24 at 12:53 pm

My research group has advertised a new position for the EPSRC/Healthcare partnership with Blatchford and PACE. I announced the funding grant a few weeks ago in this blog. This is the original post.

We are recruiting now and the job ad can be found here

Deadline for applications is 25th June. (Interviews held on 17th August 2010)

Join us!