This opportunity is now closed.

Funded PhD Opportunity

Oxygen-generating biomaterials for use in wound dressing strategies

Subjects: Biomedical Sciences and Computer Science and Informatics


Summary

Background:

Tumour hypoxia is currently recognised as a negative prognostic marker in oncology and this is, at least in part, because molecular oxygen is integrally involved in the mechanism(s) by which some anticancer therapies work. Such therapies include photodynamic therapy (PDT), sonodynamic therapy (SDT) and indeed radiotherapy, where the presence of O2 ‘fuels’ stimulus-mediated generation of cytotoxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). We have recently demonstrated that calcium peroxide nanoparticles can be used to enhance PDT [1] and SDT [2]. Calcium peroxide results in the production of molecular oxygen on contact with aqueous media.  In order to design a particle that would be compatible with systemic administration, we designed our particles to be coated with a pH sensitive polymer that is stable at normal pH (pH 7.2) and dissolves at a relatively low pH (i.e. the pH of hypoxic tumours – pH 6.4 – 6.8).   This formulation, known as StimOx, is currently under investigation as an adjuvant to anti-cancer therapies such as PDT/SDT/radiotherapy and funded by an InvestNI PoC award.

StimOx could also find use in areas such as wound healing where a lack of oxygen can impact negatively on the healing process, particularly with chronic wounds [3]. Indeed, a number of commercial products are currently on the market to address this need and these include products such as Natrox, Oxyzyme and Iodozyme. We believe StimOx could provide benefit in this area because: (i) it can be integrated with therapeutics (control of sepsis) (ii) it can be formulated to respond to changing wound pH to enable oxygen production.

Project Aim:

The current project seeks to explore the potential of embedding our nanoparticle platform in various forms of biodegradable matrices with a view toward developing oxygen-producing bandage materials. The project comprises a cross-faculty multidisciplinary approach exploiting materials chemistry, materials engineering and biomedical sciences to address the following specific objectives:

1. Nanoparticle preparation with the appropriate pH response.  This will involve the design and synthesis of coatings compatible with a range of pH responses (i.e. dissolution in high or low pH) and potentially incorporating therapeutics (PDT/SDT antimicrobials). Coated particles will be characterised with respect to size, polydispersity, pH response with respect to oxygen production and in vitro toxicity, stimulus response and antiseptic potential. (Year 1).

2.  Incorporating nanoparticles into biodegradable polymeric matrices (Year 1/2). Within this objective, manufacturing technologies such as spinning and/or extrusion-based 3D printing will be investigated to produce polymeric matrices as substrates for particle incorporation. In this regard, different commercial as well as novel pH-responsive polymers will be identified and then processed by using a range of design as well as system configurations (i.e. coaxial systems), which will be further optimised in order to best mimic the characteristics of the host tissue(s), and ultimately develop patient-specific strategies.

3. Materials testing (Year 2/3). Here materials will be characterised with respect to physico-chemical (porosity, morphology, 3D architecture, wettability) and mechanical performance, oxygen production, toxicity, response stimulus (PDT/SDT and antiseptic potential) and potential for wound healing applications (in vitro; e.g. migration assay - in normoxic and hypoxic environments).

Key References:

1. Oxygen generating nanoparticles for improved photodynamic therapy of hypoxic tumours.  Sheng Y, Nesbitt H, Callan B, Taylor MA, Love M, McHale AP, Callan JF. J Control Release. 2017 Oct 28;264:333-340.

2. Patent Application (PCT - WO2018203083 (A2).  McHale AP, Callan J, Sheng Y. 2018).

3. Topical oxygen therapy stimulates healing in difficult, chronic wounds: a tertiary centre experience. Kaufman H, Gurevich M, Tamir E, Keren E, Alexander L, Hayes P. J Wound Care. 2018 Jul 2;27(7):426-433.


Essential criteria

  • 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

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    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 £ 15,009 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


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Kieran O'Donnell

My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Profile picture of William Crowe

Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe


Key dates

Submission deadline
Friday 7 February 2020

Interview Date
9 to 20 March


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Professor Anthony McHale


Other supervisors

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