Tissue engineering is a rapidly expanding commercial and research area. To date, skin and articular cartilage have been tissue engineered and are available for clinical use. Other larger structures have been more difficult to produce. The major reason for this is the diffusion constraints imposed on the scaffold. We have developed a novel and unique method for producing three dimensional scaffolds from collagen, either by itself or as a composite with hydroxyapatite or other biopolymers. The technique involves rapid prototyping by solid freeform fabrication combined with CT/MRI data scanned directly from patients. Because we use SFF we can create a microvasculature within the scaffold ensuring that nutrients are kept supplied to cells deep within the structure. This is termed a 'platform technology' and the following examples show the breadth of tissues which can now be fabricated: bone, meniscal cartilage, heart valves, smooth muscle and arteries. We have a range of collaborations with leaders in their field both within the UK and abroad. There is scope for several projects within this general theme, depending on the interests and experience of the applicants.
The description above outlines a possible new research project being offered to prospective new postgraduate students.