Seung Hun Lee and colleagues at ETH Zurich have recently published a peer reviewed paper “Comprehensive in vitro Comparison of Cellular and Osteogenic Response to Alternative Biomaterials for Spinal Implants” in Materials Science and Engineering: C. The article explored the effects of silicon nitride (SN) in terms of cell proliferation, mineralization and osteogenesis, all of which were deemed positive with respect to the effects of other materials including Ti and PEEK. A similar result to that of SiN was found for zirconia toughened alumina. Further, the paper demonstrates the potential of surface texturing in enhancing the osteogenic capacity of this material. The graphical abstract for the paper can be found below.
A big welcome to Pedro from Campina Grande in Brasil.
Some of you will have met Pedro already through the on-line courses etc we have held previously. Just to let you know that Pedro has now been in the UK for 2 weeks of which 10 days were spent quarantining. Previously he had been working as a researcher in Lisbon, Portugal. Like England in the UEFA final, Brasil lost 1-0 in the Copas America final vs Argentina over the weekend and on home territory so he is probably in need of some sympathy!
Pedro will be researching surface modifications in additive manufacturing processes to enhance artificial joint performance.
Further evidence of the important effect of engineered surfaces on immune response, this time in breast implants. Such research demonstrates the importance of modifying the surface texture in a manner that reduces the foreign body response. These and other examples pave the way for the development of new technologies for enhancing a favourable response to the implant and reduce complications including, potential, arising from infection and surface contraction.
The authors of the original paper have already provided a classification system for functional biocompatibility with regard to surface roughness (see figure below).
Figure reproduced from: Barr et al, Journal of the Mechanical Behavior of Biomedical Materials, Volume 75, November 2017, Pages 75-81. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
The EU’s Horizon Europe has begun and Sweden, Switzerland and UK, as an associate partner that has the same rights as full partners, will be actively engaged in research. As such we will be submitting grants in areas of medical engineering and biomechanics using both bottom-up instruments and top-down specified calls.
One of these instruments that allows collaboration development are through the Postdoctoral fellowships – which allow an overseas post PhD researcher to undertake research and research training in Europe (max 8 years research experience since their PhD). The proposed call opens on 18 May 2021 with a proposed call deadline 15 September 2021 (tbc). These fellowships provide a substantial salary as well as a research support allocation managed by the host institution.
The consortium members, University of Leeds, Uppsala University, Lulea Technical University, ETH Zurich and Imperial College London, have considerable experience of hosting and developing the types of fellowships providing an open and innovative environment for the Fellows to develop. The consortium have considerable EU experience through both large scale programmes (lifeLongJoints.eu), mentoring EU fellows and a number of MSCA ITNs (now called doctoral networks) and would welcome discussions developing EU postdoctoral fellowship proposals. If you have any students who may be considering a postdoctoral research position and might be interested in med-tech/biomechanics then perhaps we can chat about this. These fellowships are useful for answering research questions that both the beneficiary and the researcher are interested in.
Significant paper developing and modelling hydrogels with a goal of more closely representing those of cartilage. The material shows a similar equilibrium compressive modulus to that observed in cartilage and allows for both rehydration and poroelastic lubrication mechanisms. BioTrib looks forward to seeing further work from this partnership of leading tribological and modelling groups.
Figure – Reprinted with permission from: Fabrication of Cartilage-Inspired Hydrogel/Entangled Polymer–Elastomer Structures Possessing Poro-Elastic Properties, Siavash Soltanahmadi, Nicholas Raske, Gregory N. de Boer, et al. ACS Applied Polymer Materials, Copyright 2021 American Chemical Society
Melina Papalampropoulou-Tsiridou has recently written an interesting blog on the PLOS ECR community pages which poses the following question:
PhD training in the 21st century: is there something missing?
This is a difficult question with the myriad of skills required in differing jobs across the STEM sector, from a science policy adviser to a postdoctoral researcher in a laboratory at a prestigious global University. Indeed some of the skills required of a PhD student in industry may be become less important than they were in actually doing the PhD, whilst others will come to the fore once in paid employment post PhD. An example, may be the focus on the idea of being an independent researcher, a student pursuing their own research goals, sometimes linked to other projects as in ETNs, sometimes not. However, in industry, or even in EU funded large scale projects such as LifeLongJoints, the research is often completed in teams with groups of people explicitly working towards a common goal. In it is not to say that PhDs are not highly prized, they are! Employers seek researchers with skills in critical analysis, a greater degree of objectivity and adept at generating new ideas. It is to be remembered that most PhDs will end up outside the academic sector. In a recent BioTrib meeting with industry on supervisory training it was suggested that PhD candidates lack Project Management and other organisational skills when entering industry, but that the core creativity was highly valued. Melina provides similar examples around Networking and Management skills which appears to reflect a wider observation. In BioTrib the Early Stage Researchers will undertake some Research Management training including Project Management, Ethics and aspects of Regulation. However, more can be done to make this more effective and embed this within European Research (Training) Programmes without impacting on the valuable core research that these ESRs do whilst undertaking a PhD.
If you want to outline what skills you think are missing in a PhD programme, please contact us here at BioTrib.
Great paper from my colleagues on the LifeLongJoints project (lifelongjoints.eu)… Enhancing the data required for effective testing in total hip replacements…
Concluding the authors note
There is a case that implant industry could be more demanding in its requirements for preclinical testing before introducing a new implant to market and further work is obviously needed to explore the consequences of the altered loading patterns on wear and ultimately the success or otherwise of a hip arthroplasty.