UniversityofBath OP t1_jd3nt6v wrote

Yes! We give the tissues the initial fabric of instruction but once the right cells are attracted to the space they take over and start growing in a space that they didn't occupy previously.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jd3n98f wrote

Ooooh that's an interesting question! Actually something I was teaching on close we're getting to creating something that could solve a lot of problems in one go (robot muscles!) Imagine creating tiny muscles that allow you to smile again and restore your identity to large muscles that help you stand again!


UniversityofBath OP t1_jd3mxa4 wrote

Hello! Absolutely. Biomaterials are already being implanted into patients to grown new tissue. There's a great TED talk by Anthony Atala which gives a good overview of what we're doing in that space (there has been significant progress made since then in fact). One cool thing to note is that as Anthony is giving his TED talk, he's 3D printing a new kidney in the background....

I do work with medical professionals, and roboticists, and engineers, and chemists, biologists, device regulation experts, clinical partners...the list goes on! It's rarely a 1 person show!

A single organ may actually not be the main issue. The issue is the space in which that organ sits in and what else it interacts with (soft tissues, tissues that expand, bone, nerves, blood vessels etc). Creating something that keeps all those partners happy is difficult!

You would need university level qualifications- an undergraduate degree in chemistry/ biology or both and at least a Master's too. I did a PhD also which laid the foundation of my career.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jd3m06e wrote

Hello! Thank you for some great questions. I'll break them down in my response;

- nerve regeneration: I actually did do some work on this. I grew nerve cells on my materials and tested the network by sending a signal from one end and seeing whether it would be received on the other end of the network (spoiler: it did!). Many different groups are working on this area and it could mean great things for example for Alzheimer's patients but also for people who have suffered nerve damage in other ways.

- collagen production: most of my materials are designed to recreate the space around the cells. Collagen proteins can also be 'woven' into this space and we can attract cells to that space to carry on the process (it is essentially what I try to do but with more than just collagen). Regarding the ageing tissue: it's an area that both the healthcare and the beauty industry are interested in and whoever gets there first will be inundated with requests i'm sure!

- apoptosis: Yes there are ways that we can induce cell death. Normally this is done by tuning the delivery method so none of the healthy cells die in the process. This type of targeted delivery aligns well with incorporation of drugs for example.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jd3kl4j wrote

Hello. This depends on the materials we are designing. For the protein-based materials we are using a technique called 'solid-phase synthesis'. Essentially we start with a solid bead and build our residues/ amino acids (the components that make up a peptide) one by one onto that bead, rather like a pearl necklace! Once we have finished 'synthesising' we remove the 'string of pearls' (the peptide) from the bead.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jd3k8bw wrote

Hello! A very good question! Once we have the technology fine tuned the next step is 'scale up' to deal with exactly what you say: increased quantity at lower costs. Partnering with industry is often something we do once we're sure we have something worth scaling up.

As the materials are novel the very start of the process, the design optimisation, can be quite costly.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jd3ju68 wrote

Hello! An interesting question. My work is designed to help patients deal with problems that surgery often can't fix. The materials I create are tailored to address specific diseases or tissue damage to restore function for that patient and reduce pain/ discomfort. The materials are designed to mimic biological tissue and there are no microchips involved in the process and therefore reduced chance of 'surveillance'. In fact we take active steps so the body can't tell the difference between healthy tissue and our materials! I guess all new technologies and ideas receive some type of push back but this is why we include the 'end user' in our processes.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jcknccc wrote

Hello. I'm not sure! I have never worked with magnetic materials but know that magnets have been used medically (externally) for example to control small robots that deliver drugs into the back of your eye. The brain and recreating electrical signals is very far from my research field I'm afraid!


UniversityofBath OP t1_jcklxws wrote

Hello! I am not a clinical trial expert (though I often lean on wonderful colleagues who are!) but if we got to that stage with our materials (after rigorous tests in a laboratory environment) the clinical trials would test for both safety and efficacy. The design of what representative population group to test on would be the job of the trial design expert. It would also depend on whether we have designed a material that targets a specific disease or whether it's designed to repair injuries (blunt force trauma).

I would also add that different countries have slightly different pathways to design clinical trials. So what's FDA approved may not necessarily be EMA approved (European equivalent).


UniversityofBath OP t1_jckkgyb wrote

Hello! Some of the materials we create are designed to last (for example some I'm designing to create robot parts for humans) while others are designed to attract the cells and degrade as the cells take over (giving them the initial nourishment and room to grow and take over the space).


UniversityofBath OP t1_jckiwx4 wrote

It was an accidental journey. I did my first degree in forensic science and came across a project that was trying to recreate the fingerprint ridges. I thought that was interesting and as I started to explore I realised you could create more than fingerprints. I started using materials that are readily available and then eventually landed on making my own.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jckgz1g wrote

Hi! Absolutely! Our vision is to one day be able to grow new tissues and maybe even organs one day for patients, using these materials and the patient's own cells. That would certainly reduce organ transplant lists....


UniversityofBath OP t1_jckgqy7 wrote

Hi! Tissues in the body are composed of many different types of proteins. One of the designs I am currently working on replicates some of the ways nature puts these proteins together. By copying nature's 'design rules' we've been able to create our own novel materials. So the short answer to this long explanation is they are protein based (though not all of my designs are. It entirely depends on what we're trying to do).

An excellent question regarding the immune response. Part of this is trying to match what our body can already tolerate though this is difficult! My materials have shown low immune response so far though we are trying to probe that further currently and see if we can modify our materials to 'calm down' an inflammatory response too.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jckf4y5 wrote

Hello! My materials are not currently being used in patients. It takes years to develop and refine the designs so they are suitable for implantation. This is then followed by strict regulatory tests and approvals before we go anywhere near a patient. All new healthcare technologies and drugs that are developed have to go through this process. My designs are still 'early stage' though I have been doing significant tests on them.

Regarding the second part of your question: cells decide how they will respond to materials by detecting physical and chemical changes around them. I study what would normally be present in healthy tissue and try to replicate these in my materials.


UniversityofBath OP t1_jc29xr4 wrote

Hi! It ultimately hugely depends on what you're looking for at a uni and in a course. Bath is a campus university which is really great for socialising and meeting new people. Bath is a beautiful city to live in as well, it's small so easy to get to know, but lots of great bars, food places, walks etc! I can't speak for individual courses as I didn't do my masters here, but I would strongly encourage you visit the university if you can to truly get a feel for if it's right for you!


UniversityofBath OP t1_jc29dw5 wrote

Hi, thanks so much for your interest!

So far I've only found that young female (adult) flies prefer to drink more of the alcohol or the yeast that producing the alcohol over other yeasts. I am moving onto studying the physiological benefits of this in the next few months to better understand why they prefer it, but some preliminary results from our lab suggest that it might help them survive longer and produce more eggs.

If you were interested in the behaviour of larvae, there is also evidence that larvae prefer ethanol-rich environments! This hasn't been tested in the context of this yeast, but is a future study I'm considering to understand when these preferences develop.

I first became interested in this research whilst doing an internship at the University of Oxford looking at sex-specific differences in consumption of protein and carbohydrate in fruit flies! I'm very interested in the behavioural choices animals make, and how these influence their evolution and interact with their health. This intricate relationship between behaviour, nutrition, microbes and evolution was fascinating to me, with so many areas unexplored so I could really take it where I wanted. I'm currently working on the behavioural genetics side, where I'm looking for genes that might play a part in the nutritional choices made!


UniversityofBath OP t1_jc25wv4 wrote

Hi! That's super cool and such a helpful way to manage insect pests without the wider detriment typically associated with insecticides! And glad it worked!

Thank you so much for your interest in my research findings! Unfortunately I haven't yet published any work from my PhD but hope to in the next year. If you're interested in keeping up with my work, please do follow me on Twitter here where I will talk about my work in a more digestible format, as well as share links to any published work or work similar to mine!

Do let me know if you have any other questions!


UniversityofBath OP t1_jc24y7q wrote

Hi, thanks so much for your interest!

So flies can get 'drunk' from drinking alcohol, in the sense that they are typically sleepier or move more slowly, but typically they stop before it has too detrimental of an effect on their behaviour, most likely for the predator issue but also to allow them to continue egg laying, finding a mate etc. There are a few studies showing that if flies are exposed to a high concentration of alcohol over a period of time, they can become more tolerant to it - similarly to humans!

Alcohol and similar ethanol products are readily available in the wild. Metschnikowia pulcherrima yeasts typically live on rotting fruit and produce chemicals like ethanol and 2-phenylethanol as a result. This is what we think attracts flies to lay their eggs there, possibly for its self-medication properties! Despite our lab fly populations being kept captive for decades, and therefore not experiencing wild yeasts like M. pulcherrima, they are still showing a preference for this species and the alcohol products above other yeast species. This suggests it is a beneficial trait to remain in the flies throughout the generations, and suggests a more significant purpose! So that's what I'm trying to understand with my research!

Any other questions let me know!


UniversityofBath OP t1_jc23kf5 wrote

Hi! Thanks so much for your interest in my work!

I haven't yet published any of my work, but hopefully within the next year. Then, the next best place to learn the most about my research would be my thesis in a couple years! If you were interested in when I publish my work or in similar information, you could follow me on Twitter here where I plan to discuss my research more regularly in a more digestible format.

I'm also keen on public engagement and outreach, so hope to take these experiments to various science festivals (primarily in South West England) but also looking into outreach methods that reach further afield!

Let me know if you have any other questions!