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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R004463/1
Title: Mathematical Modelling Led Design of Tissue-Engineered Constructs: A New Paradigm for Peripheral Nerve Repair (NerveDesign)
Principal Investigator: Shipley, Professor RJ
Other Investigators:
Phillips, Professor JB
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Biogelx Ltd Royal National Orthopaedic Hosp NHS Tr
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 January 2018 Ends: 13 September 2023 Value (£): 1,080,646
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Mathematical & Statistic Psych Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
Tissue engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Sep 2017 Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards 2 Interviews (Panel A) September 2017 Announced
28 Jun 2017 Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards 28 June 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Peripheral nerve injury is debilitating, causing loss of sensation and muscle control, chronic pain and permanent disability. In addition to the serious impact on patients and their families, nerve injuries impact society economically through reduced productivity (nerve injuries predominantly affect young people) as well as the cost of healthcare and rehabilitation. Transected peripheral nerves have the potential to regenerate following surgical repair, but there are serious limitations for injury sites >3cm, because regeneration requires a supportive microenvironment. The current best option is a nerve autograft harvested from another part of the patient's body, but donor site morbidity, limited availability and poor outcome mean there is a clear clinical need to develop effective alternatives. Advances in tissue engineering together with stem cell technologies provide promising routes for engineering living artificial nerve replacement tissues, but progress is limited due in part to a lack of consensus on how to arrange materials and cells in space to maximize nerve regeneration. This is compounded by a reliance on experimental testing, which precludes elaborate investigations due to time and cost limitations.

NerveDesign will address this log-jam, by combining mathematical modelling with state-of-the-art in vitro and in vivo experimentation for the first time, to bring about a paradigm shift in the approach used for neural repair. NerveDesign will focus on the chemical and physical stimuli that promote growth of blood vessels and regenerating nerves through a damaged nerve site. Mathematical models will be developed that incorporate the key mechanisms at play - these mechanisms will be quantified through carefully designed experiments that test them in the laboratory. Computer simulations with then be used to test different potential peripheral nerve repair construct designs, and the leading contenders will be fabricated and then tested. This multidisciplinary approach to nerve repair is entirely novel, and delineates an ambitious approach with significant potential for human health impact.

To facilitate the uptake of the approach by clinicians, NerveDesign will create and test a user-friendly software tool that enables end users to set construct design parameters according to individual repair requirements. All computational models will be formulated in Systems Biology Mark-Up Language, and published on our websites (alongside an example experimental dataset) to encourage their uptake in a range of nerve tissue engineering applications. Finally, NerveDesign will work with its clinical and commercial Project Partners to directly engage patient groups, and pave the way for translation and commercialisation of the new repair constructs designs.
Key Findings
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