Background: Chronic wounds are widely regarded as a silent epidemic that affects a significant proportion of the populace and are typified by diabetic foot, venous leg or pressure ulcers. In most cases, the healing processes are stalled resulting in a wound that can persist for months if not years leaving the patient susceptible to further complications and life threatening events. The burden of treatment is expected to increase dramatically in the future with ever rising healthcare costs, an aging population and increases in diabetes and obesity (critical comorbidities). In the vast majority of cases, wound management is largely conducted within the community with the patient and/or healthcare professional relying on the recognition of subtle local indicators or non-specific general signs.
Vision, Aims and Focus: The ultimate goal is to produce a new generation of intelligent wound dressing that can monitor the condition of the wound - reporting directly to the patient and/or healthcare practitioner to dramatically improve response time - facilitating healing and minimising the consequences of infection. The underpinning sensor design has undergone a successful first stage clinical study at Belfast City Hospital to confirm that the electroanalytical measurements are not unduly influenced by wound slough or dressing composition. The project proposed here will build on the technology base and focus on configuring the selectivity of the sensor towards the measurement of key inflammation markers within the wound environment.
The prime target is C-reactive protein (CRP) where high values reflect inflammation and/or tissue damage more precisely than other factors . While CRP concentrations <8 mg/L are considered a normal clinical condition in wounds , higher values are routinely used to discriminate infection . Such measurements could be invaluable for community based diagnosis and enable more timely recall and positive interventions.
Year 1. Validation of the CRP sensor for the smart bandage beyond the bench top is crucial. This will require the development of novel antibody immobilisation protocols and sensing methodologies and ex-vivo modeling to ensure ability to detect elevated CRP in complex biofluids.
Year 2. Sensor optimisation and validation of modified sensors against existing blood samples with known CRP concentrations from large well characterised nutrition studies. Investigate translation of methodology to other inflammatory markers (lysozyme etc).
Year 3. Transfer technology to clinical setting and assess performance of validated CRP sensors in a clinical setting (Belfast City Hospital, Podiatry/Diabetes clinic).
Outcome and Alignment to 5&50 Strategy: The study would lay critical foundations for the development of a device that would cut across the 5&50 goals – dramatically improving the health of the patient, increasing efficiency of health care resources and enabling speedier returns to employment In the UK, some 650,000 patients suffer from some form of chronic wound with published estimates suggesting that the combined cost to the NHS for their treatment reaches approximately £3 bn pa.
1.Pepys & Hirschfield. Clin. Investig. 2003,111,1805;
2.Kingsley & Jones. Wounds UK 2008,4,32–46;
3.Legendre et al. J. Vasc.Surg. 2008,48,688
- To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
- Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.
- First Class Honours (1st) Degree
- Masters at 65%
- Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
- Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
- Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
- Work experience relevant to the proposed project
- Publications - peer-reviewed
- Experience of presentation of research findings
- A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
- Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area
The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:
Department for the Economy (DFE)
The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.
Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies